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Gross out.

What's for dinner? At this restaurant, you can choose from chicken, beef, or ... rat. Residents of Guangzhou (gwong-JOH), a city in southern China, often feast on exotic dishes, including wild animals like snakes and civet cats (weasel-like wildcats).

Queasy stomach aside, Chinese health officials are now warning diners to lay off the wild delicacies. That's because eating certain wild animals may put diners at risk of catching SARS, or severe acute respiratory syndrome (see SW 09/01/03). Last January, China reported two new SARS patients. They were the first known cases since July 2003.

Scientists think the SARS virus (nonliving particle that invades and reproduces in a living cell) hides in an animal host (organism in or on which another organism lives or feeds). The new patients may have been infected by contact with host animals. "The recent transmission [of SARS to humans] is associated with live-animal markets in China," says Paul Rota, a virus scientist at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Top suspect: civet cats.

To contain the spread of SARS, Chinese health officials ordered the extermination of civet cats in the markets. Additionally, Guangzhou officials plan to wipe out the city's rat population, because they fear the rodents may also carry the SARS virus.

Meanwhile, some daring Guangzhou residents still dine on field rats. They aren't the only ones who relish rodents for dinner: Fried rat with a side of potatoes is a traditional dish in Peru.
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Title Annotation:Activities & Oddities
Author:Norlander, Britt
Publication:Science World
Date:Mar 22, 2004
Words:243
Previous Article:Name that element!
Next Article:Science in the news.


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