Infection cases 'not SARS'

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A final epidemiological investigation report on the PLA 252 Hospital infections that sparked speculation of a SARS outbreak will be issued in a week, and SARS is not the culprit, said an army source.

The source with the Institute for Disease Prevention and Control of the People's Liberation Army, who declined to be identified, said that the infections are fully under control.

"There are no critical cases or deaths. Most patients just had symptoms like fever, cough and sore throat and many didn't need to be hospitalized at all," he said.

The Ministry of Health issued an online notice on Saturday, in which it said that the patients with respiratory tract infections and fevers who are being treated at the Baoding-based PLA 252 Hospital in Hebei province were not infected by SARS.

"By confirming with relevant departments, (we have) ruled out SARS, H1N1 swine flu and bird flu, and diagnosed them with a respiratory tract inspection caused by adenovirus type 55," said the ministry in the notice.

Adenovirus is a common cause of respiratory infection, and it usually leads to cold-like symptoms, it said. Most cases are relatively mild and have a favorable prognosis.

Starting last week, many Chinese citizens voiced concern over a possible SARS outbreak in the hospital and some alleged that hundreds had been hospitalized in isolation wards and that at least one person had died.

"Most of the patients are newly recruited local young soldiers and the symptoms are usually mild, like coughing and fever," the source told China Daily on Sunday.

"Actually, so far it's hard to give an exact number of the infected as they were detected successively," said the source, when questioned about the scale of the outbreak.

"Also, we couldn't test everyone with mild cold-like symptoms for the virus and it's not necessary," he said.

The infection is not caused by a new virus, and it is just like a common cold, which is easy to treat, he said, adding that there is no need to panic.

A man surnamed Wang at the public relations office of the hospital said the facility is "operating normally" and, "the special in-patient department for military people is just managed separately from other departments".

People working at the duty office and the respiratory department declined to reveal the patients' conditions.

Feng Zijian, director of the emergency response department of the Chinese Center for Disease Prevention and Control, said he would attend a meeting held by the ministry on the outbreak in Baoding.

He didn't reveal the scale or time line of the outbreak, saying that only the military is entitled to release that information.

"Given that it's a military hospital, the epidemic investigation... would be carried out by the military," said Feng.

He said the adenovirus type 55 infection first appeared in Shaanxi province in 2006. Of 254 high school students treated for the infection, only one died.

The virus can spread via droplets and close contact and mainly strikes young people and children living collectively, like in military camps and student dormitories, he said. The infectious period lasts about two weeks and the ailment is easily cured.

It can be also transmitted by such means as computer keyboards, so people should heed their personal hygiene, particularly hand sanitation, he said.

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