SARS concerns rise after second suspected case

CHINA. China confirmed a new suspected SARS case in southern Guangdong province yesterday just as its first SARS patient in six months was discharged from hospital.

The World Health Organization (WHO) reported: “The patient, who has been treated under isolation since 31 December, is a 20 year-old woman from Henan Province who works at a restaurant in Guangzhou, the provincial capital city.”

Six WHO experts arrived in Guangzhou yesterday to help investigate the first case.

They would examine “the potential human, animal and environmental sources of the SARS infection,” a WHO statement said.

In Hong Kong, three television journalists who were in Guangzhou last week to cover news of the first patient have been hospitalised with SARS-like symptoms but two of them have tested negative. Results for the third man are still pending.

Another major outbreak of SARS would be a devastating blow for the travel and travel retail industries, which are just recovering from the first SARS crisis of early to mid-2003. Already the news from China will be damaging forward travel bookings from the vital Japanese market.

One of the big problems for the authorities is that symptoms of SARS mimic those of several other respiratory diseases, including many that are more frequently seen during the winter months. Some of these diseases may also give rise to atypical pneumonia. The WHO said It is likely that numerous other suspected cases will be reported over the coming weeks.

Real or unreal, the spectre of SARS suddenly looms large again over Asia and the travel retail business.

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