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Fears over virus spread in China

Beijing/Singapore, April 12 (Reuters): Two people in China’s remote northern region of Inner Mongolia have died of SARS, the Xinhua news agency said today, reinforcing fears about the disease’s spread though the world’s most populous country.

Ten cases of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) were reported in the regional capital of Hohhot, Xinhua said. The disease has infected more than 3,000 people and killed more than 110 across the globe since it first appeared in the southern Chinese province of Guangdong in November.

Chinese and World Health Organisation (WHO) officials were not immediately available for comment. WHO’s website (http://www.int/en/) for the first time showed Japan among countries with reported probable cases of SARS. The Japanese government said it had dropped its policy of reporting only confirmed cases, Kyodo news agency said. The government also urged Japanese travellers to be careful on trips to Beijing.

Hong Kong and mainland Chinese health experts said they had confirmed that the virus in China was the same as the one in Hong Kong, debunking the assertion of some Chinese doctors that SARS came from a common microbe, chlamydia pneumoniae, a cause of pneumonia as well as sexually transmitted infections.

Like Hong Kong SARS sufferers, patients in China showed evidence of a new strain of coronavirus, best known as a cause of the common cold, the University of Hong Kong said.

WHO officials said yesterday the epidemic was being contained elsewhere in the world but that they were worried about China.

Nearly a month after WHO launched its first ever global alert because of the mystery disease that has created panic in much of Asia, the worst-hit region, WHO nevertheless said there were signs that SARS may have peaked.

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