The 42-year-old woman and her husband are in isolation but health authorities will have to wait until Wednesday to confirm if she has flu-like Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, which killed 800 people around the world during an outbreak last year. 

"The woman's condition, her breathing, has slightly improved since last night," said on Tuesday Dr Luningning Villa, a spokeswoman for the health department. "Both of them are in a stable condition." 

Villa said 34 people who had contact with the woman at a government-run hospital in Laguna province, south of Manila, were placed in home quarantine, including two doctors who initially treated her. 

But the World Health Organisation (WHO) said on Tuesday there was only a remote chance that the Filipino maid had the disease, as Philippine officials said she seemed to be recovering.

"It could be a very remote possibility that it is a SARS case," said Jean-Marc Olive, an WHO official.

School closed

Local authorities have also closed an elementary school.  "We are trying to trace all people who had social contact with the woman from the time she had fever," Pepito Diwajon, the mayor of the town of Luisiana. 

"We are awaiting instructions from health authorities on what to do next. We have sent vitamin C to residents and will try to disinfect the woman's house." 

The 98 households in the village were also advised to avoid unnecessary travel but no restrictions were imposed on people going in and out of the area. 

Drowning cats

SARS is back to haunt China

In China, thousands of civet cats, suspected of spreading the SARS virus to humans, are being drowned in pools of disinfectant and cremated in a mass slaughter to stop the spread of the disease, officials said on Tuesday. 

"We have a disinfecting pool. We put the civet cats in cages,
which hold a maximum of four to five animals each. Then we put them into the pool and drown them," an official with the Guangzhou City Animal Quarantine and Monitoring Institute, told reporters. 

"We then take them out to be cremated," the official said of the weasel-like animals. 

Guangzhou is the capital of Guangdong province, where the latest SARS victim, confirmed as having the respiratory disease on Monday, lives. 

The slaughter of the wild animals, raised and sold in Guangdong for their perceived nutritional value, was ordered by the government Monday. 

More than 100 civet cats in Guangzhou had been killed by
drowning and cremation by early Tuesday, another official at the Institute said.