Emergencies preparedness, response

SARS: one suspected case reported in China

22 April 2004

The Chinese Ministry of Health has today informed WHO of one suspected case of SARS. Investigation of the case, including extensive laboratory testing and tracing and observation of contacts, is under way.

The case is a 20-year-old nurse who developed SARS-like symptoms in Beijing on 5 April and was admitted to hospital on 7 April. As her condition did not improve, she was transferred on 14 April to a second Beijing hospital, where she was placed in intensive care. 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.

Contact tracing has identified 171 contacts, who have been placed under observation. Of these, five have developed fever.

If confirmed, this will be the first case of SARS since January this year, when authorities in Guangdong Province confirmed infection in a 35-year-old businessman and a 20-year-old waitress. Following the end of the SARS outbreak, announced by WHO on 5 July 2003, five SARS cases have been confirmed. Two occurred in laboratory workers, in Singapore and Taiwan, China, and three in Guangdong Province. The third Guangdong case, in a 32-year-old television journalist, was announced in December 2003. None of these five cases resulted in further transmission of the virus.

China, which experienced the largest number of SARS cases during the 2003 outbreak, has a well-developed system for the detection and investigation of possible cases of SARS. Staff at the WHO office in Beijing have considerable experience with SARS and are being kept closely informed by the Ministry of Health.