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Guangdong Denies Bird Flu Outbreak Rumor
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South China's Guangdong Province has denied rumors that patients suspected of having SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) or bird flu had been hospitalized in the Eighth Municipal People's Hospital in Guangzhou, the provincial capital.

The denial came after a Hong Kong based newspaper carried an article saying "the hospital has quarantined several fever patients that may have SARS or bird flu," a report by the Guangzhou-based Nanfang Daily said on Monday, without identifying the newspaper.

The article triggered fear of an epidemic, with reporters from Hong Kong and Macao rushing to the hospital for the scoop.

However, hospital president Tang Xiaoping said the hospital had not received any patients suspected of having SARS or bird flu.

Xiong Yuanda, a spokesman with the municipal health bureau, refuted the article, adding that fears were groundless.

"Every local health agency is required to report epidemic outbreaks as promptly as possible, and we will keep the press and the people informed of any news about epidemics," said Liao Xinbo, deputy director of the provincial health department, adding that information will also be conveyed to health agencies in Hong Kong and Macao Special Administrative Regions.

The SARS virus first emerged in Guangdong in 2003, and China is also at the center of the fight against the H5N1 bird flu virus, with dozens of animal outbreaks and 22 human cases since 2003.

The Ministry of Health has urged local governments to be on alert for SARS and human cases of bird flu, and to strengthen health prevention work. Local health agencies have to report cases of pneumonia where the cause is unclear, human cases of bird flu, ordinary influenza cases and SARS.

(Xinhua News Agency January 22, 2007)

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