More than 200 have mystery illness in HK

HONG KONG: More than 200 people here have now contracted a mystery disease, and one more victim has died, officials said yesterday as health chiefs from this territory and China discussed ways to co-operate against the spread of infectious illnesses. 

The man who died in the Prince of Wales Hospital, where most of the territory's patients have been infected, was in his 70s and also had blood disease, so it was not immediately certain what killed him, said Dr Ko Wing-man, spokesman for the Hospital Authority. 

Ko told reporters yesterday that 210 people here have been sickened with severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS, up from 197 cases that had been reported as of Friday. 

If the man who died was killed by SARS, he would be this territory's seventh fatality in the outbreak that has prompted a global health alert and killed at least 10 people. 

Three schools here have been closed temporarily and are being disinfected after five students came down with the disease. 

But officials said the students had caught the illness from family members. 

Their cases were not directly linked and there was no need to shut all schools in the territory. 

Two other schools, each with one infected student, opted to stay open. 

There are suspicions that the disease came here from southern China - where at least five people died of a disease described as atypical pneumonia in a recent outbreak.  

A Chinese medical professor who visited this territory last month for a wedding infected six other people in a Kowloon hotel, and they in turn spread the disease here and to several countries. 

This territory's health chief Dr Yeoh Eng-kiong and its government leader, Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa, met visiting Chinese Health Minister Zhang Wenkang yesterday morning. 

Tung's spokeswoman, Ruby Ng, said the chief executive and Zhang “exchanged views” on the outbreak and discussed “further co-operation to contain the spread of infectious diseases.'' 

She declined to elaborate. 

Yeoh and Zhang were to talk here later in the day with the World Health Organisation's Western Pacific regional director, Dr Shigeru Omi, officials said. 

The WHO has counted 350 cases of SARS globally and said its 10 victims included six confirmed cases from this territory, plus two who died in Vietnam and two who died in Canada. – AP  

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