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SARS Ending in China, But Not in Taiwan, Says WHO - 2003-06-12

The World Health Organization has declared that Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome is nearing its end in China, but not in Taiwan. The U.N. agency says it will review new information from China before lifting SARS-related travel advisories.

Hitoshi Oshitani, who heads the World Health Organization's fight against SARS in the Asia-Pacific region, says that in terms of number of cases, China is nearing the end of its SARS outbreak.

Dr. Oshitani says the same is not true for Taiwan.

Taipei expressed frustration that the WHO is maintaining its warning that travelers should avoid Taiwan because of SARS, even though the number of new cases on the island is slowing.

China, also eagerly awaiting the removal of its SARS travel advisories, pledged to cooperate fully with the WHO.

Speaking in Beijing, China's Vice Minister of Health Gao Qiang said the WHO had given a fair assessment of the country's efforts to contain SARS.

He said China's preparedness for public health emergencies is not very high, the public health system is not very strong, and that its disease reporting system is not sound.

Dr. Gao made the comments after meeting with visiting WHO official David Heymann, who said many questions about China's SARS outbreak remained unanswered.

"We still do not know exactly where SARS came from or how it transferred to human populations," said Dr. Heymann. "And we do not know if this disease is seasonal, something that will decrease this year and come back this year."

Dr. Heymann says China has handed over new data on tracing SARS infections. He says the data will be reviewed in the WHO Geneva headquarters and could help explain the evolution of China's outbreak.

At least half of China's SARS infections cannot be traced to a source of transmission.

China reported one more death from SARS, but said there had been no new cases. Hong Kong, for the first time sine the outbreak started in early March, reported no new deaths and no new cases of the disease.

Together, China and Hong Kong make up more than 80 percent of the world's 8,400 cases. More than 789 people have died from the disease worldwide.