Sun, May 25, 2003 - Page 5 News List

SARS-surviving chef did not eat or handle animals

AP , BEIJING

Wild boars are put on sale at an animal market in Guangzhou, the capital city of Guangdong province. A top Hong Kong scientist said yesterday research showed it was likely the SARS virus jumped to humans from civet cats, considered a delicacy by many people in southern China.

PHOTO: REUTERS

A man identified by Chinese authorities as one of the first three people to contract SARS has emerged from hiding to say he is desperate to find work.

Huang Xingchu, a chef in Shenzhen, fell ill with fever on Dec. 5, the state newspaper Guangzhou Daily said Friday. It said he recovered but quit his job after word got out that he had survived SARS and business at the restaurant plunged. He went into hiding at his family's rural home.

The newspaper, published in Guangdong Province, where the earliest SARS cases were reported, used Huang's story to illustrate an appeal for sympathy for people with the disease.

Huang said he was living at his family's home in Heyuan, a city in northern Guangdong, but couldn't find work due to his notoriety as a former SARS patient.

"I had just hoped that after my recovery I could do the work I loved, as a famous chef," Huang said.

Media in China and Hong Kong have speculated that Huang's illness might have spread from his work. He reportedly specialized in preparing dishes with exotic animals -- which some have suggested could be the source of SARS.

That suspicion was lent support Friday when several Hong Kong researchers said they found the SARS virus in a mongoose-like animal called a masked palm civet, which is considered a delicacy in Guangdong.

Microbiologist Yuen Kwok-yung said the disease might have spread to people who raised, slaughtered or cooked the exotic animals.

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