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SARS patient says he never ate civet cat

The SARS patient had never eaten civet cat, as animals were culled on fears they may carry a SARS virus that could jump to humans.

health and fitness Updated: Jan 07, 2004 21:18 IST

The Chinese TV producer who contracted SARS had never eaten civet cat, state media reported on Wednesday, as thousands of the animals were culled on fears they may carry a form of the virus that can jump to humans.

In the Philippines, authorities said a woman suspected of contracting SARS while working as a maid in Hong Kong does not have the deadly flu-like virus, easing fears of regional contagion.

A news conference was planned later on Wednesday in Manila to unveil details of a battery of tests on the unidentified 42-year-old woman.

"I can confirm that we're going to report that it's not SARS," Health Secretary Manuel Dayrit told Reuters.

China's official Xinhua news agency said the only contact with wildlife the SARS patient could recall was with a mouse he threw out of a window.

The victim, surnamed Luo, was confirmed as having SARS this week and is due to be released on Thursday from hospital in the southern province of Guangdong, where the disease emerged in November 2002 and went on to kill 800 people around the world.

Chinese health authorities said a gene sample from the 32-year-old man resembled that of a coronavirus found in civets, a local delicacy.

China has given a Saturday deadline for the slaughter of about 10,000 civets, a course of action that has worried the World Health Organisation which fears the cull could help spread the disease.

"Still unaware of the cause of his catching SARS, environmentalist Luo said he had never touched or eaten civet cats in his life and recalled only having thrown a baby mouse out of the window by hand," Xinhua said.

The China Daily said the civet extermination campaign was being carried out mainly by "braising and steaming" the animals and quoted experts as saying releasing the animals into the wild was not an option.

"During the whole process, there is no direct contact between the employees and the animals," it said.

Guangdong authorities have said the civets are being destroyed by being drowned in chemical disinfectant and then incinerated.


The stock market has shrugged off the SARS case and businesses in Guangzhou -- sent reeling during the height of the outbreak last year -- appeared unruffled.

SARS infected about 8,000 people around the world last year, about two-thirds of them in China, and savaged airline and tourism industries around Asia.

"Everything remains as normal," an official of the Guangdong foreign economic and trade administration told Reuters. "There is no plan to cancel any international conferences or exhibitions for the time being."

The Guangdong branch of state travel chain CITS signed "anti-SARS" guarantees with hotels, restaurants and tour operators to assure customers their destinations were free of the disease.

"None of our customers have cancelled their trips abroad, nor have foreign tourists cancelled their trips to Guangdong," a branch official said.

Air France on Tuesday inaugurated a new Paris-Guangzhou service which will run five times a week from June.

Luo, 32, complained of a headache and fever on December 16 and was admitted to an isolation ward at the No. 1 Hospital of Zhongshan University on December 20.

Initially diagnosed as having pneumonia, he was transferred to the No. 8 People's Hospital on December 24.

"The disease is not that fearful," Luo said in a telephone interview with the news agency from the Guangdong capital, Guangzhou, on Tuesday.

"It was quite a shock to realise that I might have contracted SARS, when I was sent to the isolation ward," said Luo.

First Published: Jan 07, 2004 21:18 IST