After six days without new cases, Guangdong has been declared safe by the WHO
After wreaking havoc in the Far East and Canada, SARS seems to be on its way out Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome has caused 618 deaths in 7,532 cases around the world, a death rate of 8.2%. Now under control in Hong Kong and Guangdong province in the People's Republic of China, the World Health Organization has lifted the travel ban to these two areas.
After six days without new cases, Guangdong has been declared safe by the WHO, along with the city of Hong Kong, where the number of new cases has been five or less for the last eight days. Although Taiwan has reported scores of new cases in recent days, the authorities claim they will soon have the epidemic under control, this being the last place where the spread of the disease was still causing concern.
Together, China, Hong Kong and Taiwan account for 90% of the deaths from SARS (618 out of 683) and 93% of the cases (7, 532 out of 8, 098). Why it started is still a mystery. Originally it was thought to have been another migration from birds to humans, a variant of bird flu.
Now, Yuen Kwok-Yung, an investigator from the Hong Kong University, claims that SARS was transmitted to humans from a species of civet consumed in southern China, after having migrated to this tree-dwelling animal from another source. The civets themselves seem to be unaffected by the virus.
Claiming that there need to be strict controls on the breeding and slaughter of animals for consumption, Dr. Kwok-Yung declared in a press conference at the weekend that "It is difficult to change five thousand years of culture".
Now that SARS appears to be on the way out, scientists will be waiting for the first signs of its reappearance. Some feel that this will happen next winter, a season offering the best conditions for the virus to propagate. This year, it has seen the growth rate of the Chinese economy slow from 9% to 7.5% and will cost the city of Beijing around five billion USD in lost receipts from tourism.