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SARS Whistle-blower Breathes Sigh of Relief
The first doctor to blow the whistle on the misreporting of SARS in China said he "breathed a sigh of relief" after the number of new cases of the flu-like infection dropped to single digits in Beijing on Monday.

Jiang Yanyong, a semi-retired doctor at the People's Liberation Army General Hospital (Hospital No 301) told China Daily: "Obviously, the prevention and control measures (adopted by the government) have brought marked progress in the fight against the epidemic."

Ji Lin, deputy director of the Beijing municipal joint leading group on SARS control, told a press conference in Beijing yesterday that Jiang has not been put under any pressure or restrictions.

Jiang has been in the spotlight since early April, when he said the claim by then Health Minister Zhang Wenkang that Beijing had had only 12 SARS cases and three deaths as of April 3 was inaccurate.

In a frank letter sent to media outlets in China and abroad, Jiang said that six people had died of SARS and 60 others had been infected at Beijing's Hospital No 309 alone as of April 3.

The former minister was sacked on April 20.

Referring to his speaking out, Jiang said: "I believe what I did as a doctor has played a certain role in combating the epidemic."

But the 72-year-old doctor cautioned that it is still too early to be optimistic about the drive against the virus.

"I'm not an anti-SARS professional but, judging from the scenario and experience in Hong Kong, I think it still takes time to resolve the problem completely," Jiang said.

Jiang said phone calls and e-mails have flooded in from journalists and newspaper readers since early April but his life has not changed otherwise.

His everyday activities involve riding his bicycle, reading books or surfing the Internet, he said.

"Every Monday, I do the rounds of the wards in Hospital No 301 and I will operate on a patient this Thursday," the doctor said.

A graduate of Beijing's Yenching University, Jiang joined the People's Liberation Army in 1954. He is a former director of the surgery department of Hospital No 301 and a famous surgeon of the nation.

(China Daily May 21, 2003)

May 20, 2003
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