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Virus Engulfing Asia Believed to Be New Deadly Flu

Posted March. 17, 2003 22:15,   


A virus, which is believed to have generated in Southern China, has swept Asia. Now, it`s triggering a panic in Europe and North America.

The exact identity of the virus is not known yet. Experts, however, believe it is a new deadly flu virus or a mutant one passed from the animal.

The WHO announced on Sunday that nine people died of SARS, a symptom similar to pneumonia. It also confirmed that at least 150 people in Europe and North America were infected with the virus.

The health organization believes that the virus was carried across the border by those who traveled by plane. WHO experts diagnose that, for now, the threat from the virus is not so much serious as to totally ban the air travel. But, they caution that if a person coughs, or suffers from high fever or difficulty in breathing after a trip to the "infected areas," the person should consult a doctor.

WHO spokesperson Dick Thomson said, "This disease is highly contagious. Unfortunately, traditional treatment or preventive measures do not work for it."

So far, all patients suffering from the virus have traveled to China, Hong Kong or Singapore. Geographically, eight Canadians are suffering from it, along with 40 Vietnamese, 49 Hong Kong citizens (including 42 doctors) and 20 Singaporeans.

Dr. Julie L. Gerverding, the director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said, "We are working on the samples of the virus. By the end of this week, we would get the first test result."

WHO`s official in charge of infectious disease commented, "It is not one of those flue viruses we have experienced so far. It could be a new deadly flu virus or a mutant one infected from the animal." So far, scientists have juxtaposed it with other known viruses. But, no match has been found yet.

Kwon June Wook of the National Institute of Health said, "If the virus had been a flu one, it should have divided itself and spread much faster since its discovery early last month." Thus, he dismisses the possibility of being a flu virus.

After an incubation period of two to seven days, a patient begins to show symptoms such as high fever, headache, muscular pain, coughing, and swollen throat.

Sang-Keun Song songmoon@donga.com