Australia probes suspect SARS cases

Two Australian airline stewards have been in a Sydney hospital isolation ward with possible cases of SARS after returning from a flight to China.

    SARS killed nearly 800 people around the world last year

    New South Wales state health minister Morris Iemma said on Wednesday the two flight attendants returned to Australia from China on Tuesday and were placed under observation at Sydney's St Vincent's Hospital. 

    Chinese officials have reported one confirmed case of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and two suspected cases in the Chinese province of Guangdong in recent weeks, months after the disease was considered contained in July. 

    The two Australians suffered from sore throats and a fever and were undergoing tests to determine if they had contracted SARS, officials said. 

    "They have been in China within the incubation period for SARS," New South Wales health official Paul Armstrong was quoted as saying in the local media. 

    "Because of that, certain protocols and procedures have been put in place," he said. 

    Previous case

    SARS emerged in China last year and eventually infected more
    than 8000 people, killing nearly 800, mostly in China, Hong Kong and Singapore, but also in Canada. 

    During the earlier outbreak, Australia had only one confirmed
    case of SARS, a foreign tourist who became ill after arriving from Hong Kong, but later recovered. 

    Iemma said authorities were stepping up vigilance on SARS, given the suspected new cases in China. 

    "It is important that state and federal health officials maintain vigilance on SARS and we take the advice of the health experts," he said.



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