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SARS Update: New Quarantines in China, Russia Reports Case - 2003-05-08

Health officials in China announced more measures Thursday to combat a surge of new SARS cases. This as the World Health Organization says the death rate from SARS is climbing. Now Russian health officials believe they may have their first case of SARS. Worldwide the epidemic has killed more than 500 people and infected 7,000 in some 20 countries. VOA-TV’s Chris Simkins has more.

The World Health Organization has sharply raised its estimate of the global death rate from SARS saying that between 14 and 15 percent of those infected die. The figures are up from earlier estimates of six to ten percent. The Geneva-based United Nations health agency says more than half of the SARS patients over 65 are likely to die. This comes after an international group of scientists published a study showing the disease is killing 20 percent of all patients in Hong Kong. At least 208 people in the territory have died from SARS.

Meanwhile, the WHO issued more travel advisories Thursday warning against travel to two more northern provinces in China and to Taiwan's capital, Taipei. Mainland China now has five regions under such travel advisories and it remains the hardest hit country with 224 deaths.

In Beijing, the so-called hot spot for the spreading virus, some 30,000 SARS inspectors are going through neighborhoods and work sites looking for people who might show symptoms of the disease. One of the inspectors, Lin Yushi, says the teams are also looking for areas that could be breeding grounds for the virus.

“We are taking these measures in order to try and detect problems at an early stage. We monitor our residents’ body temperature and are informed about their general health condition so that we know the further development of the SARS outbreak.”

More than 20,000 people in Beijing, suspected of having SARS are quarantined but the capital’s health care system remains overwhelmed. In an effort to ease the situation some 10 million dollars of much-needed medical equipment and supplies arrived in Beijing from Germany. Some of the equipment will be transported to rural provinces. Health officials are concerned that an outbreak in less populated communities could be catastrophic because of poorly equipped hospitals.