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Suspected SARS case in China

From Steven Jiang

SARS first emerged in Guangdong, with evidence suggesting it jumped from animals to humans.
SARS first emerged in Guangdong, with evidence suggesting it jumped from animals to humans.

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Mayo Clinic
World Health Organization (WHO)

BEIJING (CNN) -- A health official in China's Guangdong province has reported that a man suspected of having SARS has been identified and isolated in a hospital in the provincial capital of Guangzhou.

The suspect case is the first to emerge in China since the nation's last SARS patients were discharged from a Beijing hospital in August.

Blood from the man has been sent to a Ministry of Health laboratory in Beijing for confirmation, which will take a day or two to complete, said the official, who identified himself only as Mr. Wu.

Guangdong province, where the disease was first recognized in February, has launched its emergency response to Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, or SARS, Wu said Saturday (Friday ET).

The patient is a 32-year-old freelance television producer and is Chinese, according to the Health Ministry. His fever started on December 16 and he was originally hospitalized December 20, but not considered as a suspected SARS carrier until Friday.

Hospital staff members were informed of the man's status Friday and patients were asked to don face masks, Wu said. The Health Ministry said none of the people he has been in contact with was infected.

Last month, the Singapore Health Ministry ordered 70 people who came in contact with a Taiwanese SARS researcher quarantined to their homes Wednesday. They were monitored but no other cases were found.

In the United States, federal health officials in September said they were preparing for another outbreak of SARS -- which infected more than 8,000 people around the world before it appeared to vanish just as mysteriously as it arose.

"As an infectious disease expert, I've never seen a pathogen emerge and go away on its own," Dr. Julie Gerberding, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said last fall. "We have to expect that sometime, somewhere, this virus is going to rear its ugly head again."

Unlike flu, SARS has no known treatment. The National Institutes of Health is working on a vaccine, but none is ready. Over the course of the outbreak, the World Health Organization identified 8,422 cases, 916 of them fatal. Symptoms can include a high fever, chills, headache, general feeling of discomfort and body aches.

Patients may develop a dry, nonproductive cough and pneumonia. Some require ventilation. In all, SARS spread to more than two dozen countries in North America, South America, Europe and Asia. But WHO declared the outbreak over in July.

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