SARS in China


Broadcast May 5, 2004

This is Phoebe Zimmermann with the VOA Special English HealthReport.

China has been dealing recentlywith new cases of the lung disease SARS. SARS is severe acuterespiratory syndrome. Chinese officials reported a small number ofcases as of last week. All were linked to employees of a diseasecontrol laboratory in Beijing or people close to them.

Last Friday the Health Ministry confirmed the first death fromSARS since last year. The victim was a woman who died in late Aprilin the eastern province of Anhui. She was the mother of a studentresearcher who became infected at the laboratory and traveled hometo Anhui.

Officials are keeping hundreds of people away from others toobserve them for signs of SARS. Last Friday tens of millions ofChinese began to travel for a week-long May Day holiday. Officialswere at airports and train stations to watch for sick travelers.

New research shows that the SARS virus can travel through theair. Scientists from Hong Kong reported their findings in the NewEngland Journal of Medicine.

Last year, in Hong Kong, more than three-hundred people got SARSin the Amoy Gardens housing project. Experts were not sure how theinfection spread from building to building. A team of researchersdecided to use computers to recreate conditions there. Ignatius Yufrom Chinese University of Hong Kong led the team.

The study centered on the buildings where the firstone-hundred-eighty-seven cases of SARS were reported. The teamconnected the position of where each person lived with informationabout airflow in and around the buildings.

They say the virus first began to spread in March of last yearwhen a visitor used a toilet in one of the buildings. This personwas sick from SARS. The bathroom with the toilet had an exhaust fanfor airflow.

Investigators from the World Health Organization later examinedthe pipes in the bathroom. They found conditions that could havepermitted the fan to pull the virus up into the air system of thebuilding. The researchers who did the new study say wind thencarried the virus to other buildings. The virus traveled on drops ofwater so small they could not be seen.

Experts say SARS began in mainland China in Novembertwo-thousand-two. It infected eight-thousand people worldwide lastyear. Seven-hundred-seventy-four deaths were reported.

This VOA Special English Health Report was written by JerilynWatson. I'm Phoebe Zimmermann.