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Russia Deals With First SARS Case

Health officials in Russia are investigating what they suspect may be the country's first case of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome. Russia's chief disease control expert says a 25-year-old man hospitalized in the country's Far East almost certainly has the SARS virus.

Blood samples taken from the man were sent to Moscow earlier this week for analysis, after he fell ill in a town close to Russia's border with China, the country worst affected by the SARS outbreak.

Other officials say the lab tests still are not conclusive, but authorities are taking steps to deal with SARS.

The hotel where the man was staying has been put under quarantine, and most border crossings between Russia and China have been closed.

Thousands of people normally move between the two countries each day, mostly merchant traders, who import clothing and other goods from China. The border is thousands of kilometers long, and trade along it has been booming for more than a decade.

In addition, Russian aviation officials have ordered the suspension of all airline reservations on flights between Russia and China, Hong Kong and Taiwan. They say all flights to those places may soon be halted completely.

Authorities in Moscow and other cities have begun implementing anti-SARS measures, such as spraying disinfectant in the Moscow underground metro system.

And Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov chaired an emergency meeting with senior health officials to see what else should be done to try to prevent SARS from spreading into Russia.