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WHO to help China in SARS probe
Updated: 2004-04-26 17:25

The World Health Organization (WHO) will send an expert team to China to assist China's Health Ministry to investigate into the cause of SARS cases reported in China recently, Bob Dietz, spokesman of WHO China Office told Xinhua on Sunday.

"At the request of the Chinese government, WHO will assemble a team of two or three experts in laboratory bio-safety issues... toinvestigate possible links between China's Institute of Virology in Beijing under the China's Center for Disease Control and Prevention, and the SARS cases reported recently in China," Dietz said.

"The WHO team will arrive in China within days," he said.

Since April 22, China has reported two diagnosed and six suspected SARS cases in east Anhui Province and Beijing.

Since the Anhui diagnosed SARS patient and one Beijing suspected SARS patient used to work in the same laboratory in the Institute of Virology, experts said it was possible that the epidemic may have been caused by laboratory infection.

Dietz said currently WHO still does not see a "significant" public health threat in China.

But he said the situation could change if effective transmission of the SARS coronavirus were to be seen within the general public through casual contact, including being in an elevator, sharing a taxi or from a waitress at a restaurant.

"So far, the people who have become infected have all been closely linked with the people who made them ill, including close relatives or some one in a hospital setting," he said.

Dietz said WHO believes the most important thing to do at present for China is to spot potential SARS cases as quickly as possible, actively isolate them and carry out thorough epidemiological investigation and monitoring.

"This is the method that worked last year at the height of the first round of SARS and remains our best tool for controlling the disease this time, too," he said.

No new SARS cases reported on Monday

China reported no new suspected or diagnosed SARS cases for the 24 hours from 10 a.m. Sunday to 10 a.m. Monday, the Chinese Health Ministry said in Beijing Monday.

The ministry said in its daily SARS surveillance report that the diagnosed SARS patient in Beijing, surnamed Li, is in relatively stable condition and has had normal temperature for 10 straight days.

The five suspected SARS patients in Beijing are now receiving medical treatment in Beijing Ditan Hospital, the ministry said.

The SARS patient in Anhui Province, surnamed Song, is also in stable condition and none of the people with close contact with her have shown abnormal symptoms so far.

In addition, the ministry said an emergent investigation has been carried out in the hospitals at and above the county level on the death and pneumonia cases with no clear causes, which occurred since March 20.

"So far, no cases were found suspicious and related with SARS," the ministry said.

Meanwhile, the Chinese Center for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC), whose Institute of Virology has been sealed and isolated since April 23 due to possible laboratory infection, reported that no staff under quarantine has shown strange symptoms so far.

The Beijing-based CDC said it has listed all the people who had been to the Virology Institute since March 20 and investigation and tracing to them are still being carried out.

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