SARS case confirmed in southern China
Results of laboratory tests have confirmed a case of SARS on 5 January in a 32-year-old man in the southern Chinese province of Guangdong. It is the first case of SARS in 2004 and the first case not linked to a laboratory accident that has occurred since the initial outbreak of SARS was declared contained on 5 July 2003.
The patient, a television producer, has been under treatment in isolation at a hospital in the provincial capital, Guangzhou, since 20 December 2003. The suspected case was first reported by Chinese authorities on 26 December and has been under investigation, with the support of WHO ever since. Initial diagnostic tests were inconclusive.
The confirmatory tests were con-ducted in China, Hong Kong Special Administrative Region by the University of Hong Kong and the Government Virus Unit at Queen Mary Hospital. Both laboratories are members of the WHO Multicentre Collaborative Network for SARS Diagnosis that col-lectively identified the SARS coronavirus in mid-April 2003.
The source of infection in this new case remains unclear. Studies conducted last year detected a SARS-like virus in some animal species, including the masked palm civet suggesting that SARS may have originated from contact with wild animals sold for human consumption. Retrospective analysis of patient records linked several of the earliest cases to contact with wild animals. However, epidemiological investigations in China have yet to link the patient to exposure to wild animals.
All the patient's contacts have been traced and all are reported free of symptoms. Surveillance for additional cases has been intensified in Guangdong and other provinces. Additional WHO teams have been sent out to assist in research aimed at identifying the source of infection and preventing further cases.