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China: WHO team to investigate SARS outbreak in Shanghai

China: WHO team to investigate SARS outbreak in Shanghai

SARS coronavirus
An expert team from the United Nations World Health Organization (WHO) arrived today in Shanghai to investigate an outbreak of the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) there as the Chinese leadership strengthens its commitment to openly report cases of the disease.

WHO said the removal from their Communist Party posts of the Health Minister and the Mayor of Beijing, both of whom downplayed the seriousness of SARS, is an indication that the Chinese leadership is now taking seriously the need for transparency in reporting.

Shanghai has officially confirmed only two probable cases of SARS and no deaths. The six-member WHO team, the second to the country, will conduct a four-day probe in which they will confer with local health authorities, inspect hospitals and examine measures taken to prevent and control the spread of SARS.

The Chinese Government also announced a further 109 SARS cases in Beijing, according to WHO. This, plus Sunday's announcement of 339 previously undisclosed SARS patients, brings the total of confirmed cases in China to 1,959.

These figures, WHO stated, do not include the military hospitals in Beijing, as those hospitals are not obliged by Chinese law to report cases to health authorities. However, a WHO team began visits to the military facilities last week.

China also reduced to only one day the traditional weeklong May Day holiday, a period when hundreds of thousands of people generally travel throughout the country. "The purpose of such an act is to prevent the massive movement of people and the possible spread of the disease," said Gao Qiang, an Executive Vice Health Minister.