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WHO to Send New Team to China


The World Health Organization says it is sending a new team of experts to southern Guangdong Province where China has another possible SARS case. In Hong Kong three local journalists are being monitored after returning from Guangdong with high fever - sparking concerns that the SARS virus may be spreading again.

China's state news media announced Thursday that a second person in its southern city of Guangzhou may have Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome. The patient - a 20-year-old waitress - was hospitalized on December 31 with a fever and her lung x-rays proved suspicious.

China's first confirmed case this year - a 32-year-old television producer - was released from the hospital Thursday after making a full recovery.

The World Health Organization's regional spokesman, Peter Cordingly, says more U.N. experts are going to China's Guangdong Province to investigate. "A second team is going in, they'll be looking into possible animal connections, human connections, and environmental connections." He says the team will focus on how the first SARS patient might have caught the illness. Genetic tests revealed he had a strain of SARS apparently found in wild civets, which are a delicacy in Guangdong.

The man says he did not eat civets. But China's second suspected case - the waitress at a wild game restaurant - could feasibly have come into contact with the mammal at work. China is currently slaughtering civets and rats to eliminate any possible threat - despite WHO- warnings that it could spread SARS if not carried out properly.

The disease, which emerged in Guangdong in late 2002, infected eight thousand people in more than a dozen countries. More than 770 people died from the flu-like symptoms, which developed into a serious pneumonia.

Meanwhile, health authorities in Hong Kong Thursday were also monitoring three journalists from local television station TV-B, who are exhibiting SARS-like symptoms. The men had been in Guangdong filming wildlife food markets as part of their coverage of the SARS story.

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