Chinese SARS numbers soar with disclosure of Beijing cases

Apr 21, 2003 (CIDRAP News) – The number of SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) cases in China soared in the past 2 days with official revelations that Beijing has 448 cases, more than 10 times the number previously reported.

The increase helped push the worldwide cumulative total to 3,861 cases, with 217 deaths, according to today's figures from the World Health Organization (WHO). The WHO reported 495 new cases since the previous report on Apr 19.

A WHO statement said Chinese officials announced yesterday that Beijing had 339 cases, and today they reported another 109 cases in the city. The new numbers bring the total of confirmed cases in mainland China to 1,959, including 86 deaths, officials said.

"In an indication that the Chinese leadership is now taking seriously the need for transparency in SARS reporting, the health minister and Beijing mayor, both of whom played down the seriousness of SARS, were removed from their Communist Party posts," the WHO statement said. Chinese newspapers reported today that Beijing's mayor also was fired from that position, according to the Associated Press.

China also reduced its traditional week-long May Day holiday to a single day in an effort to limit the spread of SARS by discouraging travel, WHO officials said. They also said a WHO team is now investigating SARS in Shanghai, which has reported two probable cases but no deaths.

Hong Kong today reported a cumulative total of 1,402 SARS cases, including 94 deaths. The AP said Hong Kong had 22 new cases today, a lower number than had been seen in the preceding few days. Maria Cheng, a WHO spokesperson, was quoted as saying the latest numbers are encouraging and that Hong Kong cases are not cropping up in unexpected places.

In the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported 38 probable SARS cases and 190 suspected cases as of yesterday. Probable cases are those that match the WHO definition, which includes pneumonia or acute respiratory distress syndrome. The CDC had reported 35 probable cases on Apr 17.

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