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Civets endangered species in China
GUANGZHOU: Masked palm civets and their suspected link to SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) are back in the headlines again.
The latest research has shown a close link to the animal. Officials in the capital city of South China's Guangdong Province are now conducting a province-wide effort to cull 10,000 civets.
The genetic sequence of the coronavirus detected in the civets by researchers at the University of Hong Kong and the Shenzhen Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has been found to be nearly identical with that of the virus sample of the new case in Guangzhou, said Lin Jinyan, deputy director of Guangdong CDC.
Hong Kong microbiologists have conducted a series of tests on civets since the suspected SARS case was reported late last month.
In the origin-seeking research, 27 mammal species were sampled, two more than a similar test last May, said Zhuang Zhixiong, director of Shenzhen CDC. And abundant strains of the deadly virus were found in civet samples.
Researchers from the Guangdong CDC further confirmed the finding, adding that the genetic differences between the coronavirus on civets and the virus sample separated from the patient is extremely slim, with only eight points in the respective genetic codes. In comparison, last year's test showed a difference of 18 points, said Chen Qiuhong of Guangdong CDC.
Experts from Guangdong and Hong Kong agree that masked palm civets are now considered the main carrier of the SARS virus.
Officials from the Guangdong Provincial Public Health Administration (GPPHA) have called on the public to stop activities that involve the animal, including capturing, transporting, selling and eating it.
Even the badger, whose living environment is very similar to the civet, is being suggested for a ban.
Feng Liuxiang, GPPHA's deputy director, said that there are all together about 10,000 masked palm civets in Guangdong, most of which were transported from Shaanxi Province in Northwest China. They will be killed and buried to prevent another SARS outbreak.
Restaurants are being inspected and, if they are found to be processing or selling civet meat, their business licenses and sanitation certificates will be revoked, effectively resulting in a shutdown, said Feng.
(China Daily 01/06/2004 page1)
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