SARS patient never touched civet cats

  • AseanPlus News
  • Thursday, 08 Jan 2004

BEIJING: China's first SARS patient for six months said he has never had contact with civet cats as concerns mounted yesterday over a mass slaughter of the animals, which are suspected of spreading the disease. 

The 32-year-old television producer in southern China's Guangdong province said he did not know how he caught the pneumonia-like illness and had never eaten or touched the animals and had not been to wildlife markets recently. 

The patient, identified by his surname Luo, recalled only having thrown a baby mouse out of the window. 

“My colleague told the doctors about me and the mouse, hoping to help them find the source of my infection,” Luo was quoted by Xinhua news agency as saying. 

He was declared fully recovered on Tuesday and will be discharged from hospital today, after being hospitalised in late December. He was confirmed as having Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome on Monday. 

His case marks a resurfacing of the disease which broke out in China and caused a global crisis last year, killing about 800 people and infecting around 8,000. 

Yesterday, Guangdong continued its campaign to eradicate the weasel-like civets, confiscating them from farms, markets and restaurants after mainland and Hong Kong scientists found the animals, bred and sold as a culinary delicacy, had a similar coronavirus as Luo's SARS virus. 

So far, 2,443 animals have been drowned in disinfectant or liquefied in pressurized pots, the Xinkuaibao newspaper said Wednesday. 

Guangzhou, Guangdong's capital, has even killed the three civets in its zoo. 

Overseas experts said the cull was premature and may even be targeting an innocent animal. 

Numerous other species, ranging from rats to domestic cats, can carry the SARS virus and no-one knows if any of them can transmit the virus to humans – or whether these animals were infected by humans instead, they said. 

Meanwhile, a woman hospitalised in the Philippines for suspected SARS has been declared free of the disease. 

The Health Ministry immediately lifted a quarantine on around 50 people who had been in contact with the 42-year-old Hong Kong-based Filinipa maid, identified only by the code-name MD, who fell ill during a Christmas vacation. 

The World Health Organisation also confirmed the woman was not suffering from SARS. – AFP 

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