Beijing takes action to check SARS

Beijing is now facing a crucial time for prevention of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), vice-director of the Beijing Municipal Bureau of Health Liang Wannian said Wednesday.

He also noted, however, that no suspected or confirmed cases of SARS have been found in the capital.

"Heavy transportation before the Spring Festival, especially between Beijing and South China's Guangdong Province, has put great pressure upon us over the possibility of SARS case emerging in the capital city,"Liang told China Daily yesterday.

At the same time, winter is a season with a high incidence of respiratory diseases, he added.

But Liang was still felt confident strict measures could prevent any outbreaks.

Passengers on airplanes, trains and vehicles from Guangdong, where one SARS case and two suspected ones have been found, have had to go through body temperature inspections when arriving in Beijing. The new rules were instituted late last month when the first suspected SARS case was reported in Guangzhou, provincial capital of Guangdong.

Anyone with a temperature over 37.5 C is sent immediately to designated hospitals for further observation, medical treatment and epidemiology tests, said Liang.

Figures on the number of people "caught"by the inspections are not available yet by press time.

Beijing has not considered cutting the flow of human traffic from Guangdong, he said.

Earlier reports in local newspapers said many Beijing-based travel agencies have cancelled routes to Guangdong during the Lunar New Year.

In another development, the Ministry of Health said yesterday that samples of two suspected SARS patients in Guangdong had been delivered to World Health Organization (WHO) laboratories.

"The two suspected SARS patients are in stable conditions and their laboratory samples have been sent to the network laboratories of the WHO for verification,"the ministry said during its daily monitoring report on SARS.

Tang Yaowu, a chief physician with the Beijing Municipal Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, yesterday doubted whether slaughtering all civet cats in Guangdong is a good solution to avert another outbreak of the disease, although research shows the viral genetic sequence from the recent SARS patient in the southern province is very similar to that of the weasel-like mammal.

"I believe it is an excessive action,"Tang, former vice-director of the centre told China Daily in an interview.

"Many animals carry virus but do not break out, like dogs carry rabies virus and pigs carry meningitis B virus, did we just kill all the dogs and pigs""However, he said he understood Guangong's action.

People's Daily Online ---