China blames SARS outbreak on lab workers

China’s Health Ministry has blamed this year’s outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome on several people at the country’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Xinhua news agency said on Thursday.

The cases had been linked to the CDC’s National Institute of Virology in Beijing, which had carried out experiments using live and inactive SARS coronavirus. The World Health Organization had expressed concern about bio-safety procedures at the institute.

“The cause of this year’s SARS epidemic situation has been found, it is laboratory infections,” Xinhua said. “Several people at the Center for Disease Control and Prevention should assume responsibility,” Xinhua quoted the Health Ministry as saying.

The CDC director, Li Liming, had resigned and four of his colleagues had been disciplined, it added.

One person died and nine were infected in the outbreak, mainly centered in Beijing but also including two cases in eastern Anhui province.

The small outbreak began in March and the WHO declared it contained in May.

SARS first emerged in southern China in late 2002 and spread around the world to infect 8,000 people in nearly 30 countries, devastating the airline and tourism industries. Nearly 800 people died.

China, hardest hit after hiding the extent of the disease in the early stages, declared victory over that outbreak in July 2003.

Provided by ArmMed Media
Revision date: July 9, 2011
Last revised: by David A. Scott, M.D.