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China Reports Another Suspected SARS Case - 2004-01-11


China has a third suspected case of SARS in its southern Guangdong Province. International health officials are searching for the source of China's first confirmed case of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome in almost six months.

Hong Kong health authorities say officials in China's Guangdong Province informed them there is a third suspected SARS case.

A World Health Organization team conducting an investigation of SARS in Guangdong said it had no information on this possible case. But the team's leader, Robert Breiman, says he expects many more suspected cases.

"We still do not think there is a significant public health risk at the moment," he said. "The system is showing that it is working, because it is picking up cases very early, that is the most critical component."

China has had three suspected cases isolated in Guangdong this month and only one - a 32-year-old television producer - was confirmed with the virus. He is China's first case of SARS since July.

Lab tests showed the man had a type of SARS virus found in civets - a wild animal that is served as a delicacy in southern China.

As a precautionary measure, health authorities in Guangdong carried out a province-wide slaughter of civets.

WHO regional spokesman, Peter Cordingly, says people should stay away from wildlife restaurants.

"We do tell people to be sensible about eating in wildlife restaurants, while there is suspicion that civet and other animals might be the source of the coronavirus," said Mr. Cordingly.

SARS, a coronavirus which causes flu-like symptoms and serious pneumonia in many patients, originated in China 14 months ago, and spread to more than a dozen countries.

Eight thousand people were infected and more than 700 died before the outbreak was declared over in July.

Until now, there had only been two reported cases in Asia since July, and both patients had been doing research in laboratories with the SARS virus.