Sars victim's mother dies as China admits lab workers have disease

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The Independent Online

Two laboratory workers have contracted the Sars virus and the mother of one has died, China confirmed yesterday. The woman is the country's first apparent fatality from the disease since July.

Two laboratory workers have contracted the Sars virus and the mother of one has died, China confirmed yesterday. The woman is the country's first apparent fatality from the disease since July.

The government, which has quarantined more than 300 people, said it would disinfect public buildings and take the temperatures of travellers at all ports of entry to prevent an epidemic. "Anyone who has a temperature over 38C will be taken to the hospital," a Health Ministry statement, published in newspapers, said. "No one will be exempt."

The infected workers, identified as a 31-year-old man from Beijing and a 26-year old woman from central Anhui province, worked for the Centre for Disease Control in Beijing, where they are thought to have contracted Sars. A 20-year-old nurse in Beijing is ill with a suspected case of the disease.

The mother of the Anhui womandied on Monday, after being taken to hospital on 8 April with a fever and an unidentified pneumonia-like virus, the ministry said. She is believed to have caught the illness from her daughter, a medical student who studied at the laboratory. The daughter was treated for viral pneumonia at Jiangong Hospital in Beijing, where she came into contact with the nurse.

The two women took train journeys together between Beijing and Anhui. Hospitals along the rail line are on alert to report cases of pneumonia. Maria Cheng, of the World Health Organisation, said it may send experts to help trace the women's movements. "Here it looks like we had human-to-human transmission, and there's clearly a travel history where they might have exposed other people," she said.

In Anhui, 117 people have been quarantined and one has shown fever symptoms. In Beijing, 188 were quarantined and five reportedly had fevers.

Sars triggered a global health crisis last year in which 774 people died, 349 in mainland China. More than 8,000 were infected around the world. China was criticised for withholding information about the disease but the Health Ministry said yesterday it would act quickly this time and would not hold back details.

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