"This suspected case has been reported to the health ministry. The ministry has to now send specialists to determine if it is indeed a SARS case," an official of the Guangdong provincial health bureau said on Saturday.

The health ministry confirmed to AFP that it had received the report and had sent a team to Guangdong.

"On Friday, an expert panel was sent to Guangdong province to investigate the case," said an official.

With 5327 cases and 349 deaths, China was the country most affected by the SARS epidemic which peaked earlier this year after first emerging in Guangdong province, which borders Hong Kong, in late 2002.
 
Guangzhou daily Nanfang Dushi Bao, which first reported the latest suspected case, gave the patient's surname as Luo and said he was hospitalised on December 20.

Hong Kong's director of health Dr P.Y. Lam said the territory's health authorities had been told of the suspected case on Friday evening and that the man was a freelance television station worker who was not believed to have travelled recently to Hong Kong or elsewhere in China.

Lam said he had been told the patient had typical SARS symptoms, including a respiratory tract infection and fever.

"We will deploy staff to check people travelling from Guangdong on a random basis," Lam told a briefing.

He said this would be on top of current measures, which include thermal imaging of travellers to check their temperatures and requiring them to fill in health declarations.

Hong Kong hard hit

Hong Kong was the second worst hit region after mainland China in the global SARS outbreak earlier this year, with 299 patients dying out of a total of 1800 infections.

Chinese state television said the man was in a stable condition.

Train passengers' temperatures
will be checked before boarding 

Another daily, Xin Jing Bao, said provincial health authorities were not authorised to confirm SARS cases, under current Chinese procedures.

It said the Guangdong health office had called an emergency meeting on Friday. The daily quoted a hospital worker as saying preventive measures had been taken.

"A noticeable change is that hospital patients must wear masks," the worker was quoted as saying.

Guangdong province has prepared stern measures to prevent the virus from spreading if it reappears, state media said on Thursday.

Public transport checks

Throughout next month's Chinese New Year holiday - when millions go travelling - officials at the train station in the provincial capital of Guangzhou will check all passengers' temperatures, the Yangcheng Evening News had reported.

Those with body temperatures of 38 degrees Celsius or more will be prevented from boarding and instead be sent directly to hospital for treatment, the paper said.

Those with body temperatures of 38 degrees Celsius or more will be prevented from boarding and instead be sent directly to hospital for treatment

Passengers who have a temperature of at least 37.5 degrees Celsius, and who cough and have difficulty breathing, will also be pulled off trains for observation, according to the report.

SARS emerged in Guangzhou some time late last year and eventually spread to most corners of China as well as other parts of Asia and the world.

The first case appeared at Foshan, about 20 km from Guangzhou.

It later spread to Hong Kong and then dozens of countries around the world.

Taiwan had a scare earlier this month when a military hospital researcher was believed to have caught the SARS virus while at work.
 
He was confirmed as a SARS victim on December 17, but health authorities declared on Friday that the island had been cleared of the infection after the last people who had contact with the patient were removed from a watchlist.