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WHO Expands SARS Search in China - 2003-05-12

The World Health Organization (WHO) has expanded its investigation of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome in China, with more visits to rural areas where the outbreak is thought to be worse than reported. Melinda Smith has the latest.

Teams of investigators have been dispatched to Chinese provinces where there are high numbers of migrant workers.

Officially, China has reported few cases in these provinces. But the World Health Organization says many of them have poor health care systems with little capacity to identify and report SARS cases.

Health experts say they do not know why China's rural provinces are reporting relatively small numbers of SARS infections. These provinces send tens of millions of migrant workers to cities to work.

China reported 12 new SARS fatalities Monday, raising the death toll on the mainland to 252.

In Hong Kong, primary school students were allowed back into classrooms, after a six week long precautionary closure.

"At the beginning, I had great fun. But after a while, I started feeling really lonely."

Hong Kong reported three new deaths and five new cases, the ninth day that new infections have been in single digits.

In Taiwan, six new deaths from SARS were reported. Taipei city officials dismissed the head of one large hospital after the institution was accused of misdiagnosing SARS patients and covering up the number of infections.

Meanwhile, a researcher who helped pioneer a drug treatment for AIDS patients told experts in Beijing Monday SARS patients might benefit from lessons learned in the battle with HIV-AIDS. Dr. David Ho, Scientific Director of the Aaron Diamond Aids Research Center.

"And if we think that there are certain places where there are some similarities, we can use the years of experience with HIV and apply it to the SARS virus, which is what we did with one treatment effort."

Dr. Ho says there have been promising results from laboratory tests on the SARS virus using synthetic peptides that have slowed the onset of AIDS.