Chinese Vice Health Minister to Fight SARS in South
HONG KONG To prevent a winter return of the deadly SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) virus, a senior Chinese health official will visit southern Guangdong province this month to map out measures such as banning civet cat from menus, a newspaper said this week.
Initiatives to be hammered out by Vice Minister of Health Wang Longde and provincial officials would include banning restaurants from cooking and serving high-risk animals such as civet cats, said Hong Kong's pro-Beijing Wen Wei Po.
Chinese health experts have concluded that the civet cat, considered a delicacy in the south, was a primary source of last year's SARS epidemic.
Thousands of civets were killed in Guangdong province in January because of fears they may carry a form of the virus that can jump to humans.
Guangdong would be the focus of Wang's move, and the measures for civet cats there would not be extended to the whole country, the newspaper said.
The civet is a small carnivorous mammal found in Asia and Africa. The brown, furry creature with a catlike body, long tail, and weasel-like face has long been coveted by those who believe its tender flesh will improve their health and complexion.
SARS emerged in Guangdong in November 2002 and was soon spread by travelers. The disease eventually killed some 800 people around the world and infected about 8,000, some two-thirds of them in China, and dealt a severe blow to several Asian economies.
A top Chinese health official warned of the increased risk of infectious diseases such as SARS and bird flu jumping across the border to Hong Kong in 2005 as more Chinese travel to the southern city for work and play.
Speaking after a two-day meeting with health officials from Hong Kong and Maçau, Chinese Vice Minister for Health Huang Jiefu stressed the need for surveillance and sharing of information sharing to control the spread of infectious diseases.