The head of the Beijing Municipal Health Bureau Jin Dapeng said Sunday it was purely a rumor that an "unidentified epidemic" was spreading in the city as someone had claimed online.
A person calling himself Steven Shen alleged on Friday on the Internet that "an undiagnosed epidemic" was spreading in Beijing and "had claimed 143 lives."
The head said the municipal government was on high alert since the first imported case of severe acute respiratory syndrome was reported in early March, and the city's health authorities have worked hard to save patients and prevent the disease from spreading.
So far only four people have died of SARS in Beijing and the saying that there has been a "loss of 143 lives" was totally groundless, Jin said.
He said the person who fabricated and publicized the rumor should be held legally responsible for causing public panic.
The health bureau announced yesterday that so far eight patients have recovered from SARS and have been discharged from hospital, including one foreigner and six Chinese who came to Beijing for treatment.
Meanwhile, the first SARS patient admitted to a hospital in Beijing on March 1 has recovered, Mayor Meng Xuenong announced on Saturday.
The patient, 26, is a native of Shanxi Province in north China. She was doing garment business in Guangdong Province before coming to Beijing.
The number of suspected SARS patients admitted to local hospitals is decreasing and the epidemic situation in Beijing has been basically brought under control, Meng said.
(Xinhua News Agency April 14, 2003)