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WHO confirms respiratory disease in China with nearly 800 cases

WHO confirms respiratory disease in China with nearly 800 cases

United Nations experts today concluded that the atypical pneumonia cases in China are likely the same disease now identified as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), bringing the figures for the country to more than double since the last date of reporting.

A World Health Organization (WHO) team of five international experts, which arrived in China over the weekend, reviewed the definition used to identify cases of atypical pneumonia and the agency's own criteria for identifying probable cases of SARS, and concluded that the two definitions were compatible.

The WHO experts said the similarity in symptoms and details of several clusters of cases suggest that the atypical pneumonia that began in Guangdong Province on 16 November and SARS that began appearing in other Asian countries on 26 February are the same disease.

Chinese authorities today officially reported that a total of 792 cases and 31 deaths had occurred between the start of the outbreak through 28 February – a significant increase from the 305 cases and five deaths that had been previously reported for the period covering the outbreak until 9 February.

To minimize further transmission of the disease, China is following procedures in line with WHO recommendations. Local authorities also told the WHO team of a new reporting system that will rely on regular provincial updates. China is also beginning a collaborative programme in which samples from infected local patients will be exchanged with the WHO network of collaborating laboratories working to identify the SARS causative agent.

The new data from China bring the total number of probable cases worldwide to 1,323 with 49 deaths.