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A health worker walks past a SARS billboard Wednesday in Hefei, the capital of China's Anhui province.
updated 4/28/2004 12:41:55 PM ET 2004-04-28T16:41:55

China announced an additional suspected SARS case Wednesday as international medical detectives took aim at the virus’ most recent outbreak, hoping to find out how it got loose — and whether lab procedures were to blame.

Despite the Health Ministry’s announcement of a new suspected case, reported to be in critical condition, the World Health Organization amplified anew what it has said in recent days: The miniature outbreak “appears to be under control.”

Quarantines continued for people who came in contact with the two newest confirmed SARS cases — in Beijing, the capital, and the southeastern province of Anhui. About 1,000 people remained in isolation Wednesday, WHO said, with 600 in Beijing and more than 300 in Anhui.

Members of a WHO team were arriving in Beijing on Wednesday, the official newspaper China Daily reported. WHO said the team of about a dozen specialists came at the government’s request and includes experts on infection control and laboratory biosafety. They will work in both Beijing and Anhui.

What we know about the disease“There’s no significant public health threat from SARS in China,” WHO spokesman Bob Dietz said. “The situation appears to be under control.”

But, Dietz said, “China is pretty much on red alert.”

Last year, 349 people in China died from the disease after it roared out of the southern province of Guangdong; 774 died around the world.

Holiday concerns
In a new outbreak in the past week, China has announced two confirmed cases and seven suspected cases, including the one disclosed Wednesday. All were linked to the National Institute of Virology, a Beijing lab where investigators suspect workers caught and spread severe acute respiratory syndrome.

“It seems plausible, though not proven” that the first case became infected at the institute, WHO said in a statement Tuesday night.

Authorities say a 26-year-old lab worker named Song, in Beijing, passed SARS to a 31-year-old nurse named Li, whose father, mother, aunt and roommate also are ill and are suspected SARS cases. Song returned to Anhui and her mother died shortly thereafter, and experts suspect SARS.

The newest suspected case is a 49-year-old woman named Zhang who was being treated in the same hospital room as Li, China Central Television said.

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The Xinhua News Agency, the voice of China’s government, exhorted residents of the capital to “trust the government ’s capacity on SARS control” in light of the new problems. It quoted Liang Wannian, deputy director of the Beijing Health Bureau.

“All the official departments in Beijing, especially the health departments, have made full preparations for SARS prevention and control to guarantee our citizens a safe and happy holiday,” Liang said, referring to Labor Day and its millions of travelers just days away.

Others at risk
The capital has also set up a SARS prevention headquarters.

WHO said in a statement it was particularly concerned that Song took several long train rides while suffering SARS symptoms, putting other passengers at risk.

Chinese officials have stepped up scrutiny of pneumonia patients to make sure they don’t have the disease. The suspected cases were improving, and Song promised friends in a mobile-phone text message: “I will try my best to recover.”

Song was in stable condition and no longer infectious, the government said.

Li, the nurse, has been in a stable condition with a normal temperature for 11 successive days, government-controlled media said Wednesday.

© 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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