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Atypical Pneumonia Kills 34 on China's Mainland
The death toll on Chinese mainland from an atypical pneumonia outbreak reached at least 34 from November to February, mostly in South China's Guangdong Province, health officials clarified Wednesday.

Previously, only seven deaths were reported in Guangdong.

By late February, 680 cases of atypical pneumonia had been diagnosed in Guangzhou and 24 patients had died, said a spokesman with the Health Bureau of Guangdong.

Beijing municipal health bureau also revealed Wednesday that three patients had died in the capital.

Despite the deaths, notable progress has been made in controlling and treating the disease, the Guangdong health bureau spokesman said.

Seventy-five percent of patients suffering from atypical pneumonia had recovered and been discharged from hospital thanks to effective medical treatment, he said.

The first case of atypical pneumonia in Guangdong occurred in Foshan on November 16. After that more cases were found in the cities of Heyuan, Zhongshan, Jiangmen, Shenzhen and Zhaoqing. Altogether 112 people reportedly contracted the potentially fatal respiratory disease in the six cities. Of the total, seven died.

"The epidemic has been brought under full control in the six cities and no fresh cases have been reported in those areas since February 15," said the spokesman.

In Guangzhou, the provincial capital, the first cases of atypical pneumonia were reported in late January and the infection rate reached its peak in early February.

But the number of fresh cases has dropped drastically this month, he noted.

Meanwhile, health authorities in Beijing said they have managed to contain the atypical pneumonia outbreak.

Among the eight who have been hospitalized this month, seven were from the northern province of Shanxi and one was infected in Hong Kong and returned to Beijing for treatment, a health bureau spokesman in the Chinese capital said. One had recovered and been discharged from hospital.

The city has set up an epidemic monitoring network, and is capable of dealing with emergencies and ensuring public health, he said.

In a related development, the World Health Organization (WHO) for the first time has linked the pneumonia outbreak on the Chinese mainland to a mystery flu-like illness that has hit other countries on three continents.

World health officials said the symptoms of the illness in China and the way it had spread seemed the same as severe acute respiratory syndrome, which has brought illness to nearly 500 and killed 19 worldwide.

(China Daily March 27, 2003)

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