- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 28, 2003

BEIJING — Forestry officials in southern China seized pheasants, foxes and other game in raids on wildlife markets under new restrictions meant to control SARS, while hundreds of people in Canada were kept under quarantine after a renewed outbreak.

A suburban Toronto high school was closed and its 1,700 students and staff placed under quarantine after a classmate showed symptoms of SARS, health officials said yesterday.

The move means more than 5,000 people in the Toronto area have been told to stay home for 10 days as authorities seek to control the spread of a new cluster of SARS cases known to have infected 11 persons and to be suspected in 23 others.

Two more elderly patients died, raising the overall SARS toll to 29 deaths in the Toronto area in the biggest outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome outside of Asia.

A Russian hospitalized on the Chinese border was diagnosed with SARS yesterday, becoming Russia’s first official case of the respiratory ailment even as Chinese President Hu Jintao was visiting the Russian capital.

“The diagnosis is unquestionable. This is SARS,” Gennady Onishchenko, the country’s chief epidemiologist, told the Interfax news agency.

The Chinese raids came after a World Health Organization scientist said Tuesday that SARS antibodies found in workers who handled game species at a market in southern China backed the theory that the disease jumped from animals to humans.

The WHO said the emergence of SARS in southern China in November and its spread to more than two dozen countries, infecting more than 8,000 people, has shown the need to update international health regulations.

“Here we have SARS illustrating that a public health threat can come out of nowhere,” WHO Director-General Gro Brundtland said at the agency’s annual assembly in Geneva. “The international health regulations are outdated and belong to another time and age.”

Authorities in Guangdong banned trade in wildlife because of suspicions that the virus might have come from animals eaten by Chinese. Traveling animal shows were ordered to cancel performances, and restaurants that specialize in game were ordered to surrender any live animals.

In the provincial capital of Guangzhou, agents raided four wild animal markets, the Guangzhou Daily newspaper reported. It said they seized 267 pheasants, 54 foxes, 55 pounds of snakes and other wild birds.

In Guangdong, restaurants that serve wildlife — popularly known in China as “wild flavor” — were inspected, along with ports, railway stations, and trucking terminals, the report said.

China’s Health Ministry announced four new SARS deaths and four new cases of infection on the mainland, three of them in Beijing. SARS has killed at least 325 persons on China’s mainland and infected more than 5,300 people.

Taiwan reported five new SARS deaths yesterday, bringing the global toll to 744. There was also one death reported in Hong Kong.

Officials in Hong Kong said they would crack down on spitting in public and consider other measures to improve hygiene, including a ban on live poultry sales.

In the Chinese capital, where officials closed schools and public facilities to halt SARS, life was returning to normal. Traffic accidents jumped 17 percent last week from the previous week as drivers returned to the streets. Airlines were restoring flights on the key Beijing-Guangzhou route.

An expert from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention who went to Taiwan to help with its crisis was rushed back to the United States last week with doctors fearing he himself may have caught SARS.

But preliminary lab results indicate Dr. Chesley L. Richards doesn’t have the disease, the agency said Tuesday. “He continues to be doing very well,” agency spokesman Tom Skinner said.

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