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Experts Expect SARS to Continue Spreading - 2003-05-02

In Beijing, a medical expert says Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome will continue to spread for some time. But in Hong Kong, health officials are cautiously optimistic because the daily number of new SARS cases is consistently lower than it was.

Liang Wannian, the deputy director-general of Beijing's health bureau, announced Friday that Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, or SARS, has entered its "peak period" for the capital city.

Dr. Liang defined the "peak period" as beginning on April 21, and says the SARS situation is stabilizing. Dr. Liang, who is an epidemiologist, did not say when the outbreak would subside.

His comments came only days after the World Health Organization warned that for Beijing, the worst is yet to come.

Most of China's new SARS cases and deaths are being reported from Beijing. After government officials introduced a policy of open reporting a few weeks ago, Beijing quickly moved to the top of the list of the world's worst hit cities.

China reported 176 new SARS cases on Friday, bringing the total number of cases to almost 3,800. Fatalities rose to 181.

Officials have quarantined almost 10,000 of the city's people over the past 10 days. A new Beijing hospital, custom-built in just days to deal with the influx of SARS patients, started admitting people on Friday.

Hong Kong has the second largest number of cases in the world. On Friday, officials reported 11 new cases and eight deaths. In total, the city has more than 1,600 cases. 878 people have recovered, and 170 have died.

Hong Kong health officials are cautiously optimistic, however, because the number of new cases has been consistently lower than 20 every day over the past week.

A top microbiologist told Radio Television Hong Kong on Friday that new treatments were being used on some patients who did not respond to a combination of anti-viral drugs and steroids.

Meanwhile, Taiwan's outbreak, which is less than a month old, has already killed seven people with four new deaths reported on Friday. Taiwan has reported about 100 cases so far.