China orders cull of thousands of cats as Sars virus returns

Sars is back. The first new case since last year's lethal outbreak was declared over in July was confirmed yesterday in a 32-year-old television producer in the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou.

The discovery was announced by the World Health Organisation and the Chinese Ministry of Health following tests in three internationally recognised laboratories. It triggered fears across Asia that the pneumonia-like Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome might sweep the continent, and the world, again.

China ordered a cull of 10,000 civet cats and related wildlife bred as delicacies for the table, after tests suggested they could be the source of the infection. But the WHO warned that reckless culling could spread the disease as well as eliminating evidence of its source.

Stringent checks have been imposed across the region. In the Philippines, officials isolated a woman in a Manila hospital when she developed a fever after flying from Hong Kong. They also quarantined her husband when his temperature rose. Doctors said it would take two or three days to determine whether the couple had the disease.

In Malaysia, health officials ruled out the illness in the case of a 31-year-old woman in hospital with a fever after visiting southern China. Taiwan has also cleared a suspected case.

The case in Guangzhou is the first since last year's outbreak barring a few incidents in which researchers working with the virus were infected.

The disease is thought to have originated in November 2002 in a village near the city and spread in February to Hong Kong, an international air transport hub two hours away by train. From there, it was transmitted round the world.

By the time it had burnt itself out in July, Sars had infected 8,098 people and killed 774 in 27 countries, according to the WHO, as well as causing near financial catastrophe for businesses in the Far East, especially airlines and hotels.

The latest victim has been in hospital since 20 December, but initial tests proved inconclusive. At the request of the WHO, the Chinese authorities sent samples to two laboratories in Hong Kong which confirmed the diagnosis yesterday. The source of his infection remains a mystery. The man said he had not left Guangzhou or eaten wild meat for more than a month before he fell ill.

Studies last year detected a Sars-like virus in several animal species including the masked palm civet, a long-tailed animal like a weasel with a dark face. The virus is thought to have jumped from animals to humans, although scientists have been unable to confirm that the civet was the source of last year's outbreak.

The victim and his associates remain well and under observation, the Chinese authorities said. In all, 81 people who had contact with him were quarantined, but 25 close and 39 casual contacts have been released. The doctors and nurses caring for him will be kept under observation.

The WHO said there was no immediate risk to public health from a single case and commended the Chinese authorities for their prompt response, in contrast to last year when China was blamed for covering up first signs of the disease, contributing to its spread. Officials said there was no evidence that the infection had been passed from the patient or any of his contacts and no Sars alert would be issued. "It is perfectly safe for members of the public to travel to Guangdong province," a statement from the organisation said.

"Sars can be controlled and contained if there is a system that allows early detection and isolation of cases and timely contact tracing. The Guangdong provincial health authorities are clearly committed to developing such a system and major steps have been taken to achieve this."

The Chinese authorities closed all wildlife markets in the province yesterday and launched a "patriotic health campaign" to exterminate rats and cockroaches ahead of the Chinese Lunar New Year holiday, which starts on 22 January, when tens of millions of people travel around the country.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: PHP Developer - 3-4 Month Fixed Contract - £30-£35k pro rata

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a 3-4 month pro rata fi...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Executive - OTE £26,000+

£16000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Telesales Executive is requir...

Recruitment Genius: Area Sales Manager

£25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Freight Forward Senior Operator

£22000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This logistics firm are looking...

Day In a Page

Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

Making of a killer

What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most
Katy Perry prevented from buying California convent for $14.5m after nuns sell to local businesswoman instead

No grace of God for Katy Perry as sisters act to stop her buying convent

Archdiocese sues nuns who turned down star’s $14.5m because they don’t approve of her
Ajmer: The ancient Indian metropolis chosen to be a 'smart city' where residents would just be happy to have power and running water

Residents just want water and power in a city chosen to be a ‘smart’ metropolis

The Indian Government has launched an ambitious plan to transform 100 of its crumbling cities
Michael Fassbender in 'Macbeth': The Scottish play on film, from Welles to Cheggers

Something wicked?

Films of Macbeth don’t always end well - just ask Orson Welles... and Keith Chegwin
10 best sun creams for body

10 best sun creams for body

Make sure you’re protected from head to toe in the heatwave
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon files

Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games
Women's World Cup 2015: How England's semi-final success could do wonders for both sexes

There is more than a shiny trophy to be won by England’s World Cup women

The success of the decidedly non-famous females wearing the Three Lions could do wonders for a ‘man’s game’ riddled with cynicism and greed
How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth: Would people co-operate to face down a global peril?

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth

Would people cooperate to face a global peril?
Just one day to find €1.6bn: Greece edges nearer euro exit

One day to find €1.6bn

Greece is edging inexorably towards an exit from the euro
New 'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could help surgeons and firefighters, say scientists

'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could become reality

Holographic projections would provide extra information on objects in a person's visual field in real time
Sugary drinks 'are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year'

Sugary drinks are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year

The drinks that should be eliminated from people's diets
Pride of Place: Historians map out untold LGBT histories of locations throughout UK

Historians map out untold LGBT histories

Public are being asked to help improve the map