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WHO Seeks Expanded SARS Probe in China

World Health Organization experts say they want to expand their investigation of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome into Beijing and other parts of China. The comments follow allegations the Chinese government has covered up the extent of infections in Beijing.

After wrapping up research in Guangdong Province, World Health Organization experts say they need to study the spread of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome in Beijing and other parts of the country.

WHO expert Henk Bekeman on Wednesday urged Beijing officials to be as open as officials in Guangdong. "We would like to have an in-depth investigation in Beijing of the sort we had in Guangdong," said Mr. Bekeman. "And the government will be discussing it, and there was a very positive approach to it."

The potentially deadly disease first appeared several months ago in Guangdong, in southern China. It has spread to at least 15 countries, infecting more than 2,600 people and killing about 100.

The WHO experts say doctors and officials in Guangdong cooperated with their effort to track the origins of the disease.

In Beijing, however, some Chinese doctors say the government is understating the number of SARS cases. Officials have said 19 people in Beijing have been infected with the disease and four have died.

A doctor in Beijing, Jiang Yanyong, says the official numbers are nonsense.

Dr. Jiang says he questioned fellow doctors and found there were at least 60 patients and seven deaths in Beijing.

He said hiding the truth about a public health crisis can only make the situation worse.

The WHO experts say they raised questions about Beijing's statistics with Chinese political and health officials Wednesday. They also discussed ways to improve China's tracking of diseases and its methods of halting the spread of infections.