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Expert: SARS Risk Higher in Warm Winter

One of China's leading Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome experts has warned people to be on the alert for the possible return of the deadly disease this winter.


"Warm winter weather is more beneficial to virus reproduction and growth, and is not beneficial to the prevention of infectious diseases," Zhong Nanshan, director of the Guangzhou Institute of Respiratory Diseases, was quoted as saying by the Beijing Daily Messenger. "In the coming half month, we need to be more alert against SARS and other infectious diseases."


Temperatures this winter in Guangzhou, the capital of Guangdong Province and the place where SARS first struck two winters ago, has ranged between 6 and 25 degrees Celsius. This is the best climate for viruses and bacteria to multiply, according to Zhong.


Although he said it would not be surprising if a few cases of the pneumonia-like disease appeared this winter, Zhong does not believe there will be another major outbreak because the country is now experienced and better prepared.


Nevertheless, he said, people should stay warm, make sure that homes and workplaces are well ventilated and avoid eating wild game.


Some Chinese believe that game is healthier to consume than meat from domestic animals. However, wild animals have been shown to carry the SARS virus and are believed to spread it to humans.


Zhong said that people who still believe that eating wild game is harmless should exercise caution. "These people should be considerate of their relatives, friends, even if they are not afraid of infectious disease."


The risk of a reappearance of SARS is considered high in south China's Pearl River delta, an area where people traditionally consume wild game and where the warm weather could contribute to an outbreak. Guangdong Province has announced that it is prepared to deal quickly with such an occurrence.


SARS killed almost 800 people, mostly in Hong Kong and the Chinese mainland, in a worldwide outbreak that infected more than 8,000 by the end of last year.


(Xinhua News Agency December 21, 2004)

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