The World Health Organization confirms that the global outbreak of a pneumonia-like disease from Hong Kong is the same illness that struck southern China in November. The number of Chinese people it has killed sharply boosts the international death toll.
The illness, called SARS, was suspected of originating in China's Guangdong Province, which had experienced a similar disease.
Now, World Health Organization experts have formally linked the two infections during a visit to China.
According to WHO spokesman Dick Thompson in Geneva, the experts say the Guangdong infection matches SARS, which has spread from Hong Kong.
"It is the opinion of the WHO expert team that the atypical pneumonia cases that have occurred in Guangdong starting in November 2002 is the same disease as SARS cases in 2003," said Mr. Thompson.
A Chinese doctor is thought to have brought SARS to Hong Kong after treating patients in Guangdong.
Provincial public health officials say 34 Chinese have died from the disease, tripling the global death toll from 17 to 51.