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WHO Team Investigate SARS in Guangdong Province
Officials from the World Health Organization (WTO) said they were "impressed" with the capacity of Chinese experts under biohazards in the laboratory of the provincial disease control center of Guangdong, south China.

Dr. Robert F. Breiman, head of the Program on Infectious Disease and Vaccine Science of the Center for Health and Population Research, said they visited the Guangdong center in the morning to evaluate the capacity of the Chinese experts there.

Breiman is one of the five-member WHO team who arrived here Thursday to study the situation of SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome), or atypical pneumonia, in Guangdong.

Upon arrival, they attended a meeting with some 60 medical officials and experts, and heard reports on the control of the epidemic in the province, Breiman told Xinhua in an interview.

He said they also visited the People's Hospital of Foshan City Friday afternoon, where they talked with two SARS patients who have been out of danger and are recovering.

Local experts and departments concerned have provided the WHO officials a lot of information and data, but Breiman said they need to learn more.

At the laboratory, the WHO officials saw stored specimens, which they believe would be helpful for getting to know the real root of virus.

"It seems that Guangdong's SARS incidence is decreasing, and we want to know why," said Breiman.

"Hong Kong, Canada and Singapore are watching Guangdong, expecting it could give the crystal ball," he said.

"There is risk, but the risk is not tremendous enough to arouse the public," he said, referring to the situation in Guangzhou.

Breiman said that the number of SARS patients is very small, comparing with the city's population of 10.5 million.

He encouraged cooperation between local doctors, who have gained much experience in treating hundreds of SARS patients, and their overseas colleagues for faster progress in treatment and research of the epidemic.

On Saturday, the WHO official are scheduled to visit a laboratory in the Sun Yatsen University and the Guangdong Provincial People's Hospital.

Breiman said, the WHO officials will visit more laboratories and hospitals and talk with local experts, in the hope that what they learn during the trip could be helpful for studies on SARS by experts of other countries.

(Xinhua News Agency April 5, 2003)

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