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SARS: China quarantines hundreds



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BEIJING, China (CNN) -- Chinese health officials are keeping at least 470 people under observation, as they try to contain a small cluster of confirmed and suspected SARS cases in Beijing and the eastern province of Anhui.

As of Monday, China's health ministry was reporting the following figures on the latest SARS outbreak:

  • In Beijing, there has been one confirmed case and five suspected cases; among the suspected cases were the parents of the confirmed case.
  • In Anhui, there has been one confirmed case and one suspected case. The suspected case, a woman who died on April 19, is the mother of the confirmed case.
  • The ministry also said 337 people in Beijing and 133 people in Anhui who may have had contact with the virus are under observation.

    Representatives from the World Health Organization have also been working with Chinese health officials in the wake of the reappearance of SARS cases in China.

    SARS, or Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, affected more than 8,000 people between November 2002 and July 2003 in what the WHO deemed a "global threat".

    Nearly 800 of those who contracted the disease died from it, with Hong Kong, China and Vietnam the hardest hit regions.

    WHO plans to organize a team of two or three experts in laboratory bio-safety issues to join a Health Ministry team to investigate possible links between China's Institute of Virology in Beijing, operated by China's Center for Disease Control and Prevention, and one or more of the SARS cases in China.

    The WHO team will arrive in China within days.

    "WHO sees the current situation in China as one requiring heightened vigilance, but still not one of a significant threat to public health," says Dr Julie Hall, WHO's SARS team leader in China.

    Last year China was criticized for the way it handled public information about SARS. This time around, it is making sure the public is informed and aware of both confirmed and suspected cases.

    Some Chinese, however, are not as concerned this time around.

    "For myself, personally, I don't care about SARS. I don't think it's necessary to wear a mask," one man told CNN.

    The latest cases come a week before the May 1st Labor Day holiday week when tens of millions of Chinese are expected to travel.

    Last year the government was forced to cut the holiday short, and health officials are closely monitoring the situation before determining if such measures will be necessary again.

    -- CNN's Tara Duffy contributed to this report


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