Wed, May 21, 2003 - Page 5 News List

SARS virus kills five more in China

INCREASING TOLLTwo people died in Hong Kong where authorities were concerned about an infant who caught the disease from her grandfather

AGENCIES , BEIJING AND HONG KONG

An elderly lady in Hong Kong yesterday uses a plastic bag as a sun hat while wearing a mask to protect against SARS as the territory reported two new deaths from the disease.

PHOTO: AFP

China announced five new SARS deaths yesterday and 17 more cases of infection. Beijing, the hard-hit capital city, accounted for 12 of the new cases and four of the deaths, the health ministry said. The other death occurred in the northeastern province of Jilin.

The new figures bring the mainland's death toll to 294 and the total number of infections to 5,248, the ministry said. The number of new cases of SARS reported daily have been declining steadily from a high of more than 150 nationwide at the beginning of the month.

In Hong Kong, authorities said yesterday the SARS virus has killed another two people and infected four others.

The latest figures bring the local death toll from Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome to 253 and the cumulative cases to 1,718 in Hong Kong, a government statement said. Sixteen more patients have been discharged, bringing the total number of discharged to 1,229.

A 4-month-old Hong Kong girl is believed to have caught SARS from her grandfather, who had earlier spread the disease to four other family members, health officials said yesterday.

The family still has not been identified, but Health Department spokeswoman Eva Wong said yesterday that the relatives were among 10 residents who caught SARS in the same apartment building.

Hospital officials said on Monday the grandfather, the baby and the other infected family members were in stable condition. No update was immediately available yesterday.

Two other Hong Kong babies also caught SARS but have recovered, the Hospital Authority said. Wong said officials were still trying to determine how the infants were infected.

In one case, a baby boy was confirmed to have SARS on April 10, about one month after being treated by a nurse who had contracted the disease.

However, hospital officials said they have found no links between the nurse's infection and the baby's.

The Hospital Authority did not provide details on the other infected baby, who has also since recovered.

Meanwhile, a small number of SARS cases have been transmitted on airline flights, but none since the World Health Organization (WHO) recommended in late March that countries and airlines screen passengers and crew members departing from affected areas, the agency said on Monday.

In total, the health agency is aware of 35 flights where there was a passenger with SARS. On four of the flights, the virus that causes severe acute respiratory syndrome was probably transmitted to about 16 passengers and crew members, the WHO said after analyzing information it had received through May 12.

Transmission was limited to passengers seated two rows in front of or behind the probable SARS case in a pattern similar to the spread of tuberculosis bacteria on flights, said David Heymann, executive director of communicable diseases at the WHO.

"There was no evidence of spread through the cabin," Heymann said in a telephone interview.

The most recent affected flight was on March 23, from Bangkok to Beijing. That was four days before the health organization made its recommendations on air travel.

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