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China Begins to Acknowledge Scope of SARS Infection
27 Mar 2003, 21:02 UTC
Months after a severe form of pnuemonia first appeared
in southern China, officials in Beijing are just now beginning
to admit how far the disease has spread. News media in
the country have been quiet about the outbreak.
Health experts say Chinese officials tried to hide the spread
of the disease for months, because health statistics
are often considered politically sensitive and not publicly
In recent weeks, world health officials have increasingly pressed
China to improve cooperation and statistical reporting
on what is called Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome or SARS.
Beijing began providing data on SARS to the World Health Organization
about two weeks ago. On Thursday, foreign ministry spokesman
Kong Quan said China is firmly controlling the spread of SARS.
Mr. Kong says that although the number of reported cases has
increased, there have been no new cases found since March 11.
The mysterious disease first appeared in southern China
late last year. Chinese news media, however, have downplayed
reports on the disease. Some local Beijing newspapers are carrying
brief reports on back pages. But state-run television has not
mentioned the disease. On Wednesday, officials admitted there
had been a total of 792 SARS cases in China and 34 deaths, as
of the end of February. Medical personnel say the number of
new cases dropped dramatically this month.
There have been almost 1,400 SARS cases worldwide, including
more than 50 deaths. Victims of the disease suffer flu-like
symptoms that often progress to severe pneumonia. In
China, most cases were found in the south, although a handful
have been found in Beijing and in Shanxi, an inland province.
Citing a report from the Beijing health bureau, Mr.
Kong says victims of the eight cases in the capital were either
from Hong Kong or from Shanxi. The ministry of health has not
released more recent data and World Health Organization
officials in Beijing say they have not been given statistics
concerning the disease in other provinces, despite repeated
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