Sat, May 03, 2003 - Page 1 News List

More deaths as doctors fear SARS tougher than thought


China recorded 11 more severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) deaths yesterday along with 176 new cases, while in Hong Kong eight people succumbed to the deadly disease, as the total number of global infections climbed to more than 6,030.

China's Ministry of Health yesterday reported 176 new SARS cases and 11 deaths.

In Beijing alone 96 new patients were hospitalized. Of the 11 deaths, nine were in the capital city.

Since the outbreak of the illness six months ago there have been 3,799 cases of SARS in China and 181 deaths.

The total death toll in Hong Kong now stands at 170 out of 1,611 infections or 10.5 per cent. Canada and Singapore also moved into double figures with death rates of 13.5 per cent and 11.9 per cent, respectively, according the World Health Organization.

Concern has grown among health officials that the rising death rate may be because the virus is getting stronger.

Doctors in Hong Kong have found that the SARS virus can remain in recovered patients for at least a month, and have also urged patients to avoid personal contact such as hugging and kissing when they go home.

The latest discovery came as Hong Kong officials said earlier this week that 12 people who recovered from SARS have suffered relapses. The new findings raise questions as to how doctors can tell whether a patient has fully recovered.

"The virus still exists in the patients' urine and stool after they were discharged. It will persist for at least another month or maybe even longer," said Dr. Joseph Sung, head of the Department of Medicine at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. "We don't know how long it can actually survive."

"The virus can survive in the environment for longer than a day," Sung said. "If your saliva gets on a table surface, don't assume that it will be all right after it dries up. The virus can survive for more than a day even after the surface dries."

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