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Dozens of U.S. labs that study SARS tracked

Concerned about a SARS outbreak traced to labs in Asia studying the virus, U.S. health officials said they were checking across the country to see which facilities have samples of the virus.
/ Source: Reuters

Concerned about a SARS outbreak traced to labs in Asia studying the virus, U.S. health officials said on Wednesday they were checking across the country to see which facilities have samples of the virus.

Dozens of U.S. laboratories testing the sometimes deadly virus will be reminded of safe procedures for handling it, said Tom Skinner, spokesman for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome first arose in southern China in late 2002 and was spread around the world by travelers. It killed nearly 800 people and infected 8,000 in various countries before the outbreak was declared over in July last year.

It has been seen only three times since then -- in two cases, in employees of labs studying the virus.

In December Taiwan health authorities said a military scientist had contracted the flu-like illness during an accident in his laboratory.

Authorities in Beijing have traced an outbreak of nine cases to a medical student who caught SARS in March while researching the virus at the Chinese National Institute of Virology. One person died.

When SARS broke out, scientists shared as much information as they could about the previously unknown virus. All this work required samples of the virus itself, and Skinner said the CDC itself had sent samples to 56 labs, most of them in the United States.