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BREAKING: Mysterious Asian Illness May Be a New Disease -- Rumors of Chinese Bioweapons Abound

Tests are unable to identify bug causing sickness

Breaking new this morning in the San Francisco Chronicle is that the strange illness is a brand new disease. (March 18, 2003) I quote a brief excerpt from their report:

* * *A mysterious, flu-like illness that has stricken scores of hospital workers in Southeast Asia has stumped a battery of tests for known bacteria and viruses and most likely represents a new human disease of unknown origin, federal health authorities said Monday.

At least 14 cases bearing some resemblance to the illness are being evaluated in the United States, including that of an unidentified patient, recently arrived from travel to Asia, who turned up in a Los Angeles County emergency room with a high fever and difficulty breathing.

Patients with the disease come down with a particularly dangerous case of pneumonia -- fluid filling their lungs -- and many of those sickened in Southeast Asia have had to be placed on ventilators. * * * Read More

We will create a new link for our exclusive reports on this Asian disease so that readers may track breaking news reports.

Fresh rumors are spreading rapidly about the origins of the disease. Some people are speculating afresh about laboratory born illnesses and bioweapons. I reiterate my report and commentary from March 17, 2003.

Yesterday NewsPundit Reported: Previously Unknown Chinese Virus Terrifies the World: People Wonder About Biological Weapons

Breaking news yesterday in The New York Times: A strange respiratory disease originally named by health care officials "severe acute respiratory syndrome" (SARS) has just been identified as a previously unknown virus. Identified cases of the new disease have "doubled" in the past few days according to medical officials in Hong Kong. It is now known that the disease originated in Guandong Province in Southern China, where over 350 cases were documented last November.

World Health Organization officials say this new disease "cannot be stopped" by standard anti-viral and anti-bacterial drugs. The virus has spread rapidly across the globe by international air travelers. The total number of cases world wide are not known, but more than 400 cases have been reported by health agencies around the world. There were fewer than 100 known cases just a week ago. People are hospitalized in at least six countries: Germany, Canada, United States, Vietnam, China and Thailand.

Bookings for visitors traveling to Hong Kong from Europe and the United States have not been adversely affected by news of the outbreak. But bookings from elsewhere in Southeast Asia have plunged by up to 80 percent in the last several days as countries like Singapore and Thailand have discouraged their citizens from taking unnecessary trips.

Rumors Spreading about Death Rates:

Rumors have been spreading rapidly about this new virus and its morbidity rate. So far total deaths have been reported to be nine as of yesterday. But there facts may have been withheld and some health officials have issued disturbing comments. I quote briefly from two reports:

From the New York Times report cited above:

Prime Minister Helen Clark of New Zealand asserted today that some World Health Organization officials believe the new illness could be as deadly as the influenza pandemic that killed 20 million people worldwide in 1918 and 1919.

From a report in The Asia Times doctors in Hong Kong are concerned by efforts to downplay threats posed by the disease. (March 17, 2003):

The president of the Public Doctors' Association, Dr Leung Ka-lau, has described the situation in Hong Kong as "red light", without giving further details. He criticized the government for misleading the public into believing that Hong Kong was in the "yellow light" stage. From a report in the New York Post today it appears officials all over the world are angry about the "news blackout" by China. (March 17, 2003): Scientists are furious that China hid a mysterious illness that raged there for months, preventing them from getting an early jump on the pneumonia-like disease that has affected hundreds - including a doctor who visited New York City last week.

"People are upset about this," one American epidemiologist told The Post on the condition of anonymity.

"Things were concealed, they were hidden from the rest of the world. We didn't know how bad it was."

Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome has drawn worldwide attention and been called a global "threat" by health officials in the past week after nearly 200 people fell ill, mainly in Southeast Asia.

Rumors of Possible Biological Weapons:

There are rumors spreading on the Internet about biological warfare. We need to silence those rumors. There is no reason to fear this new virus might be a bioweapon or caused by the accidental release of a man made virus.

Posted by Douglas Oliver on March 18, 2003 at 10:30 AM

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