China Goes on Nationwide SARS Alert

( [email protected] ) Dec 29, 2003 10:54 AM EST

China has gone on nationwide alert for a possible outbreak of SARS, while the country's first suspected victim in seven months recuperates in a Guanghzhou hospital.

Airports and rail stations around the country and in the Beijing have stepped up health screenings of travelers in an effort to prevent the spread of the pneumonia-like disease.

A World Health Organization expert arrived in Beijing on Monday to help China find out whether the first suspected SARS patient in the Chinese mainland in half a year has the killer virus.

Another joint team of WHO and health ministry experts was to head to the southern province of Guangdong to aid testing on the 32-year-old television producer, whose temperature was normal and who appeared to be doing well, Beijing-based WHO spokesman Roy Wadia said.

A Chinese Ministry of Health official said it would take "several days" to arrive at a diagnosis.

None of the 42 people quarantined for having been in contact with the patient has developed a fever or shown other symptoms of the deadly virus, officials said.

"Up till now, we haven't found any new suspected SARS patients, including those who had close contact with the suspected SARS patient," one Guangdong health official said.

If confirmed, the Guangdong case would be the first not linked to laboratory accidents since the WHO declared the outbreak over in July. Two recent cases in Singapore and China's Taiwan were linked to accidents in medical research laboratories.

The Singapore patient has recovered and been discharged and the Taiwan patient is expected to be released soon.