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Students to quit China over Sars.

Byline: By Amanda Crook and Jerome Starkey

North students studying in China are being evacuated because of the deadly Sars virus.

Twelve students from the University of Durham travelled to Beijing in September to study at Ren Min University as part of an East Asian studies degree.

They were due to return home in June but university officials yesterday decided to cut the trip short.

The university has been in constant contact with the Beijing health authorities and the Foreign Office. It took the decision following the World Health Organisation's warning to Britons not to travel to China's capital unnecessarily.

A spokesman for the university said: "We are in touch with the students and their parents helping make arrangements and we hope to have them back as soon as possible, although it is up to them - we can only advise them.

"Staff in our East Asia department are making alternative arrangements for the students when they return."

The students all live on the university campus in Beijing and are understood to have kept away from the city itself.

Last night it emerged a patient has been tested for a new suspected case of Sars at a hospital in Plymouth.

The patient was admitted to Derriford Hospital last weekend and discharged under observation this week, though the results of tests are not yet known.

Yesterday China's Health Ministry reported four new fatalities in Beijing, raising the capital's death toll to 39 and the nationwide total to 110.

People and buildings - including schools - infected or suspected of being infected by Sars are to be quarantined.

In Britain the Government was urged to classify Sars alongside cholera and smallpox - allowing people arriving in the UK with symptoms to be held for treatment.

Shadow health secretary Dr Liam Fox said Britain's response to the outbreak had been "feeble and complacent".

He said the Government should make Sars a "notifiable disease", enabling officials to force people to get treatment, destroy material exposed to the disease and make it a public duty not to expose others to risk.

But the Chief Medical Officer Sir Liam Donaldson said all six cases in Britain so far had been detected quickly and brought under control.

"We are in very close contact with the WHO and the other countries involved and we are working hard," he said.

Peter Hawkey, Professor of Public Health and Clinical Bacteriology at the University of Birmingham, said: "Making Sars a notifiable disease is not going to help much."

Early detection and extra resources for hospitals were more important, he said.

The death rate for Sars is between 5pc and 6pc, compared with 30pc for smallpox.

Dr Julie Hall, of the WHO's Sars team, yesterday said many of those who had died from Sars had existing health conditions and most were over 40. But, unlike diseases such as flu, Sars had also caused deaths in healthy middle-aged people.

She said, because Sars was a new disease, it was more difficult to predict its course.

The Canadian High Commission in London said there was little risk of contracting Sars in normal day-to-day activities and insisted "travel to Toronto is safe" - despite the WHO advising against unnecessary travel to the city.
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:Health
Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Geographic Code:9CHIN
Date:Apr 25, 2003
Words:533
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Next Article:Returning Britons tell of Beijing panic.


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