updated 12/27/2003 1:36:37 PM ET 2003-12-27T18:36:37

China on Saturday announced its first suspected SARS case since July, saying the patient was hospitalized in the southern province where the virus is believed to have originated.

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The man, a 32-year-old television station employee, checked into a hospital in Guangdong on Dec. 20 with a headache and fever, the official Xinhua News Agency said. It said the man was transferred Wednesday to a quarantine ward and declared a suspected case of severe acute respiratory syndrome on Friday.

The World Health Organization and health authorities in Hong Kong, which borders Guangdong, said earlier that China had informed them of the suspected case.

The pneumonia-like viral disease has sickened nearly 8,100 people worldwide, including 774 who died, according to the World Health Organization. Most of the cases happened late last winter and spring. SARS killed 349 people on China’s mainland and sickened more than 5,000.

The government said in July that the mainland’s last 12 patients had been declared free of the disease.

Possible resurgence
WHO officials have recently been warning of a possible resurgence of the disease in flu season, and appealed for foreign aid to help China improve its disease warning and research.

Health officials in Guangdong, contacted by telephone, refused to comment. They referred questions to the information office of the provincial Communist Party branch, which didn’t answer telephone calls.

But a WHO spokesman said China’s Ministry of Health notified the agency on Friday that a journalist in the Guangdong provincial capital of Guangzhou might be suffering from the flu-like disease.

The man, from Panyu in Guangdong, has not traveled abroad or to neighboring Hong Kong, said Dr. Lam Ping-yan, Hong Kong’s director of health.

Guangzhou officials said initial tests showed the man has SARS, but that more would be conducted over the weekend, Lam said.

Lam said Hong Kong has stepped up monitoring of travelers arriving from Guangzhou, which borders Hong Kong.

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