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China confirms two more SARS cases
( 2004-01-16 23:43) (China Daily)

The two suspected SARS cases in Guangzhou have been confirmed as having contracted the potentially deadly virus, the Ministry of Heath said Saturday.

The cases were confirmed after strict tests in the World Health Organization (WHO) laboratories were completed, a spokesperson of the ministry said. 

One of the patient, a 20-year-old restaurant waitress, has been discharged from the hospital after full recovery. None of the people that have contact with him show SARS symptoms and all of them have been released from quarantine, according to the spokesperson. She was identified as a suspected case on January 8.

The other patient, a 35-year-old private businessman, is in a stable situation and has maintained a normal temperature for 11 days, the spokesperson said. He was identified as a SARS suspect January 13.

The ministry has informed WHO on the latest developments and Guangdong health authorities have also notified Hong Kong and Macao authorities on the current SARS situation.

The spokesperson pointed out that, up to now, Guangdong has reported three SARS cases since the epidemic was declared contained last July, but none of them is highly infectious and recoverd quickly.

However, the spokesperson warned against negligence over the disease and called on all level of governments to be on high alert, taking all kinds of measures to prevent another SARS outbreak.

The season's first confirmed case, a 32-year-old television producer, was released from hospital last week.

WHO says SARS comes from animals

All three recent SARS related cases in Guangzhou are believed to have been infected with the potentially deadly virus by animals, WHO experts say.

Dr Robert Breiman: No repeat of last year's outbreak. [newsphoto]
A joint-team of experts on a mission to track down the deadly virus source believed it has traced the cause of the infection in the first confirmed SARS case.

The research team consists of members of the WHO, the Chinese Ministry of Health, China Centre of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the Guangdong CDC. The South China University of Agriculture is also on board.

"We have good reason to believe that animals are the reservoir of the ultimate source of SARS,'' Dr Robert Breiman, an epidemiologist with WHO and the United States CDC, said on Friday. Breiman is the team leader.

The WHO team will head for Beijing on Saturday after spending a week on its investigation in Guangzhou.

The SARS coronavirus has been detected in animal-holding cages in the restaurant in which the 20-year-old restaurant waitress had worked, Breiman said.

It was also found in the two wild animals trading markets in the nearby area. And the female patient served dishes made from civets and other animals, Breiman said.

The virus separated from the confirmed SARS patient was nearly identical with that from civet samples, according to Guangdong CDC. Civets are a species of wild cats caught and served at area restaurants as a delicacy.

Amazingly, the restaurant owner, who has cooked wild animals like the civet for decades, was quarantined for observation but never showed signs of SARS.

Up to now, there is no record of the third patient having contacts with wild animals.

However, scientists deduce that animals are the most possible source of the disease.

"By and large, most of the diseases that have appeared in the past 10 years have, in the end, turned out to be from an animal source,'' Breiman said.

"Understanding the potential of animal reservoirs for disease is an important part in any investigation for the new diseases,'' he added.

The SARS that has infected the known patients this year has seemed a less virulent form than last year, the researcher said, infecting people who come into contact with animals, but not always.

"Very possibly, it's a variation virus that isn't transmittable from person to person,'' he said.

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