Apr 22, 2004 (CIDRAP News) A 20-year-old nurse in Beijing has a suspected case of SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome), according to Chinese news reports. If confirmed, the case would be the first in the Chinese capital since last year and the first in China or anywhere since January.
Five people who had close contact with the nurse have a fever and have been isolated, according to an online report by the newspaper China Daily. The five are among 171 contacts who are under observation, the newspaper said.
The nurse, identified only by the surname Li, fell ill Apr 5 with trembling, fever, and cough, according to the report. She was hospitalized Apr 7, and a week later she was transferred to the intensive care unit at another hospital, at Beijing University.
"After April 19, two relatives who accompanied the patient began to show symptoms of fever, prompting the hospital to gear up the early warning system for SARS," the newspaper reported. "She was then diagnosed as a SARS suspect by the experts and the Beijing Health Bureau reported the case to the health ministry on April 22."
The World Health Organization (WHO) issued a statement today that generally echoed the China Daily account. "Results of initial blood tests, received today, indicate a likely infection with the SARS coronavirus. However, further testing is needed before a diagnosis of SARS can be confirmed," the WHO said.
The Chinese Ministry of Health did not declare the nurse's illness a suspected SARS case until today, according to a Reuters report, which quoted Xinhua, China's state news agency.
Beijing officials have activated their SARS warning system and begun to disinfect the nurse's home, the report said. China's health ministry also has ordered all health departments to increase their monitoring for SARS.
China's most recent SARS cases were a series of four that turned up in Guangdong province in December and January, according to Chinese accounts. All four patients recovered. They were the first cases in China since the WHO reported the containment of all known SARS outbreaks last July.
The WHO said a total of five SARS cases have occurred worldwide since last July. Those included cases in laboratory workers in Singapore and Taiwan in September and December, respectively, and three in Guangdong in December and January. One of the cases that Chinese authorities reported in Guangdong in January apparently was never confirmed by the WHO.
SARS first emerged in Guangdong in November 2002 and spread from there to Hong Kong and about 26 other countries, eventually infecting 8,096 people in 2003 and causing 774 deaths, according to WHO figures. China (excluding Hong Kong) had 5,327 cases with 349 deaths in 2003.
WHO statement on Beijing case