SARS Spreads To
China's Army

By Richard Spencer in Beijing

Sars has struck China's three million-strong military, the World Health Organisation said yesterday - just as the number of cases in the country appeared to be heading downwards.
The number of new Sars patients in China was less than 100 yesterday, and the number of cases in Beijing less than 50 for the fourth day running. Ten people died, bringing the total to 262 in China.
But the government's promises of new openness in its "war on Sars" came into renewed question when it was left to a WHO adviser to disclose that he had discovered the outbreak in the People's Liberation Army.
Eight per cent of Beijing's 2,000 cases - about 150 to 160 people - were military personnel, Philippe Barboza said.
He added that the full significance of the finding could not be judged, as he had been given no details of the patients. "The records do not say who they are, where they caught the disease, even often their sex," he said.
Living conditions in the armed forces make an ideal breeding ground for the Sars virus, which has most commonly been passed on by close personal contact. The PLA's traditional secretiveness makes it unlikely that the WHO will be allowed to inspect facilities and monitor the epidemic in the military.
WHO officials said yesterday they were impressed with the efforts made to contain the disease in the province around Beijing - Hebei - the first rural area inspected.



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