An outbreak of SARS is under control in China’s eastern province of Anhui, state media said Monday, but in Beijing, where six patients are still in hospital, a health official said it was too early to declare victory.
A medical student suspected to have caught SARS in a national laboratory was discharged from a hospital in Anhui on Monday morning after having a normal temperature for 17 straight days, Xinhua news agency said.
Her mother died of the flu-like disease on April 19.
“SARS has been brought under control in east China’s Anhui province,” Xinhua quoted local health authorities as saying.
It said five people who had close contact with the woman and developed a fever have recovered and all 155 people who had close contact with her were let out of isolation.
Another 90 people who had casual contact with the woman, surnamed Song, were healthy, it said.
Song’s release and the declaration that Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome was under control in Anhui came after a week-long national holiday during which millions of Chinese traveled around the country and abroad to celebrate International Labor Day.
SARS first spread from southern China in late 2002, infecting more than 8,000 people in nearly 30 countries and killing almost 800 people. In July 2003, Beijing declared the outbreak in China, the hardest hit country, conquered.
This time round, nine people were confirmed as having contracted the disease. The World Health Organization suspects all nine are linked to the National Institute of Virology, which had been conducting experiments using the live SARS coronavirus.
In the capital, Beijing, six patients were still in hospital with the disease, three in isolation. One confirmed patient has been released.
The other two were the woman in Anhui, Song, and her mother.
Liang Wannian, deputy director of Bejing’s health bureau, detailed elaborate efforts the city took to keep the disease from spreading, but said it was too early to say the outbreak was over.
“With the patients not out of hospital and the people with whom they had close contact not released (from isolation), we cannot mark a period at the end of the sentence yet,” he told a news conference.
Anhui’s patient Song was studying at the Beijing-based Research Institute of Virus Diseases under the Chinese Center for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC) from March 7 to 22, Xinhua said. She was diagnosed a SARS patient on April 23 after traveling by train to Anhui.
Liang, however, said it had not yet been confirmed that the outbreak started in the lab.
Revision date: June 14, 2011
Last revised: by Sebastian Scheller, MD, ScD