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WHO Experts: No Big Risk to Stay in Guangzhou
Experts from the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Monday after nearly finishing a five-day inspection on the atypical pneumonia epidemic that Guangzhou is still a safe place for business people and travelers.

"From my personal point of view, I don't really think having business and traveling activities here will be a big risk," said James Maguire, one of the five-member WHO team. "Those activities should be normally held and pretty safe."

Dr. Robert F. Breiman, chief of the team, told on Monday that "During these days, I don't really see anything abnormal here. People are leading ordinary lives."

The five-member team, sent by the WHO at the request of China's Ministry of Health, arrived in Guangzhou, capital of south China's Guangdong Province, on April 3.

Through scientific inspections in Guangdong, where the first case of atypical pneumonia in the Chinese mainland was discovered, experts expected to find some useful original data as a reference for scientists around the world to uncover a possible remedy for the epidemic.

"I can be very sure to say that all the data and information we've got here are accurate and complete, which will be a lot of help to other countries and regions," said Dr. Wolfgang Preiser, a WHO expert from Germany, adding that they had held many meetings and discussions with Chinese specialists on concerned topics.

After completion of the inspection, WHO experts Monday had a chance to view Guangzhou urban scenery on a boat sailing on the Zhujiang River meandering through the city. Breiman noticed local residents walking casually along the river banks.

"I don't see people wearing masks here," he said.

Preiser said, "It's a gorgeous view along the river and it's a pity that we don't have enough time to see this city as our schedule is very tight."

Guangdong governor Huang Huahua expressed gratitude for the experts' efforts and expected the problem would be resolved fast through effective cooperation.

By April 5, 82.2 percent of the atypical pneumonia patients had completely recovered and left hospitals, and the amount of new cases is greatly dropping, said the governor.

The epidemic was first reported in Guangdong Province on Jan. 23, and as of April 5, 1,247 atypical pneumonia cases had been reported in the inland areas of China, and 51 had died, according to sources from the Ministry of Health.

China and the WHO have been in close cooperation and have achieved success especially in the prevention and control of infectious diseases, said Health Minister Zhang Wenkang at a recent press conference in Beijing.

The minister added that effective measures have been taken to bring the epidemic under control and to ensure that foreign visitors in China will not be infected.

According to him, the central and local disease control departments have stipulated a number of methods, criteria and guidelines for the treatment and prevention of atypical pneumonia.

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao said recently that China attached great importance to the control of atypical pneumonia and was able to curb the spread of the disease.

The Chinese government and people still welcomed visitors from around the world and would take all necessary measures to safeguard their health and safety, Wen said.

(Xinhua News Agency April 8, 2003)

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