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Lung Disease & Respiratory Health Center

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SARS Cases Climb to More than 1,300

Chinese Cases Now Included in Mysterious Pneumonia Tally

China Now Recognized as Source of Outbreak continued...

After comparing descriptions of these cases and with the definition currently used to identify probable SARS cases, the experts say they were compatible.

"The WHO expert team reached the conclusion that the atypical pneumonia cases which began occurring in southern China in November 2002 are likely cases of the same disease, now referred to as SARS, that began appearing in other Asian countries on 26 February and has since spread widely to several cities throughout the world," announced WHO officials in a statement today.

Chinese authorities today officially reported a total of 792 cases and 31 deaths associated with the mysterious pneumonia between November 16, 2002 and February 28, 2003. The WHO plans to include further statistics on cases reported in China during March as that information becomes available.

Cause of SARS Still Unknown

Officials say research is ongoing to determine a cause of SARS, and attention is increasingly focusing on the coronavirus family, a group of viruses most commonly associated with the common cold. But other viruses from the paramyxovirus and other groups are also being considered as possible suspects.

Many experts believe SARS may be caused by co-infection with two viruses that work together to cause severe illness. They say evidence suggest that the virus or viruses responsible for SARS are new and not previously known to infect humans or cause serious disease.

A group of 80 healthcare workers who have cared for SARS patients also participated in an electronic "grand rounds" on symptoms and treatment of SARS today.

The group agreed that no particular therapy has proven most effective in treating severe acute respiratory syndrome. But with general supportive therapy and medical care, the clinicians say the majority of patients (about 80%-90%) show some signs of improvement at about day six or seven of the illness.

However, about 10% of SARS patients eventually decline and require mechanical assistance to breathe. These patients are often over 40 years old and have other illnesses that makes treating SARS more difficult and increases the risk of complications and death.

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