Two women show possible SARS symptoms in Sydney

Two people suspected of having the SARS virus were being treated in a Sydney hospital, health authorities said on Wednesday, the latest potential outbreak of a disease that wreaked havoc across the world last year.

NSW Minister for Health Morris Iemma said two flight attendants, who returned to Australia from China Tuesday, were in isolation at Sydney's St. Vincent's Hospital, the Australian Association Press (AAP) reported.

Chinese health officials have reported one confirmed case of SARS and two suspected cases in the southern province of Guangdong since SARS was declared under control last July.

But with no "superspreader" in sight, no one wearing masks and diagnoses of suspected SARS cases still in limbo, doctors questioned on Wednesday whether the bug that killed 800 people in 31 countries last year had lost its bite.

WHO experts, meanwhile, visited a live animal market in southern China on Wednesday, collecting samples of poultry feces in an effort to trace how SARS is being transmitted, something that is still puzzling researchers.

A leading SARS expert at the University of Hong Kong said the present strain of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome was not a descendant of last year's virus, which infected 8,000 people across the world, and appeared less contagious.

"The virus this year is a new virus strain. It behaves like a virus in an animal and is not well adapted to humans, so its transmission ability is low," said microbiologist Guan Yi.

"That is why contacts of these victims (in China) have not been infected," said the expert.

Source: agencies

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