A laboratory expert from the United Nations health agency arrived in Beijing today to help the Chinese authorities probe a suspected case of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), the first possible instance of the deadly disease in six months in the country, where it has killed some 650 people.
The World Health Organization (WHO) said a joint Chinese-WHO team is travelling to Guangdong province in southern China to provide additional support to the investigation that is already under way. Three WHO experts have already left Beijing to provide technical support in the areas of epidemiological investigation and infection control to provincial authorities and local public health teams in Guangdong, where SARS first emerged in November 2002. From there the disease with flu-like symptoms spread around the world killing a total of 774 people and infecting more than 8,000, the vast majority of them in China.
Although the final diagnosis of the suspect case is still pending, WHO said it has received assurances that health authorities have taken steps to minimize any risk to the public.
At the height of the outbreak earlier this year, WHO issued travel advisories against all but essential trips to areas of heavy infection, including Beijing, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Province of China and Toronto, Canada, but had lifted them all by the end of June.