China reports suspected SARS case

Man could be first patient since summer outbreak

December 28, 2003|By Mark Magnier | Mark Magnier,LOS ANGELES TIMES

BEIJING - China announced its first new suspected case of SARS in months yesterday, raising concerns of another epidemic in advance of lunar New Year's, the country's biggest holiday and a time of extensive regional travel.

In marked contrast to its handling of severe acute respiratory syndrome cases last winter and spring, however, when China initially balked at recognizing the problem, Beijing was relatively quick to alert the World Health Organization and the public this time.

Hong Kong, which released the news a few hours before Beijing, intensified checks on travelers, opened a hot line and instituted a precautionary alert.

According to China's state-run New China News Agency, the suspected case involves a 32-year old freelance TV worker in Guangzhou.

Hong Kong health director Lam Ping-yan said at a news conference that the patient is undergoing further tests and that those in close contact with him have been isolated.

The patient, whose name was not released, reportedly came down with a fever and a headache Dec. 16, checked himself into a local hospital Dec. 20, was quarantined Dec. 24 - initially with a diagnosis of pneumonia - and was declared a suspected SARS case two days later.

WHO officials said they were notified the same day.

This is the first suspected SARS case in China since July, when the WHO lifted its worldwide warning for the disease.

Experts had predicted that SARS would re-emerge once cold weather returned to China. SARS first appeared in the southern Chinese province of Guangdong near Hong Kong in November last year.

The Los Angeles Times is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

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