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China Confirms New SARS Cases - 2004-01-17


The government in China has confirmed that two more people in the country's southern Guangdong province have tested positive for the SARS virus, bringing the recent total to three.

China's Ministry of Health announced Saturday that two patients hospitalized in Guangdong for several weeks have tested positive for the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome virus.

One was a 20-year-old woman who worked at a wild game restaurant, where she might have caught the virus from civets, a weasel-like animal that is considered a delicacy in southern China. The health ministry said she was released from the hospital Saturday.

The other newly-confirmed victim, a man of 35, is still in the hospital in stable condition.

The World Health Organization spokesman in Beijing, Roy Wadia, says at least two laboratories scrutinized the test results carried out on the latest patients.

"The testing process starts locally in Guangdong," he said. "The samples are sent to…labs in Hong Kong in the WHO affiliated network."

WHO experts said Friday that the SARS coronavirus was present in cages at the Guangzhou restaurant where the civets were kept. But there is no apparent link between civets and the other two confirmed SARS cases.

A 32-year-old television producer, who was declared the first new SARS case in six months, was released from the hospital on January 6.

State media reported that he might have handled rats, which are also possible SARS carriers.

Although the new cases appear isolated at this point, they have raised concerns that China is facing another SARS outbreak.

When the disease first emerged in Southern China in late 2002, it spread to infect about 8,000 people worldwide before fading in July last year. More than 700 people died, most of them in China and Hong Kong.