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Travel warning over killer bug.

Byline: Vik Iyer

BRITISH travellers have been warned to be vigilant for symptoms relating to a killer pneumonia bug which was yesterday branded ``a worldwide health threat''.

Nine people have now died from the mystery pneumonia strain which experts say cannot be stopped by standard drugs and has already reached three continents due to air travel. American and French health officials in Vietnamese city Hanoi said the latest fatality was a young nurse who died on Saturday.

Dick Thompson, a spokesman for the World HealthOrganisation, said: ``People a renot responding to an ti biotics or antivirals. It's a highly contagious disease and it's moving around by jet. It's bad.''

Outbreaks of the acute respiratory illness were first reported in south China and Vietnam but cases have since been reported across south-east Asia and in Canada.

A spokeswoman for Britain's Department of Health said: ``Travellers returning to the UK from any of these areas since 2 3rd February with sudden onset of high fever and one other symptom of pneumonia including cough, sore throat or shortness of breath,or muscle aches should seek medical advice.''

Although American scientists refused to rule out bioterrorism as a possible cause for the illness, British experts played down possible links. A spokesman for the Britain's Public Health Laboratory Service said: ``Clearly it would be foolish to rule out any possibility until you have got evidence for ruling it out.

``Here in the United Kingdom, we have identified a number of infections which have been deemed most likely to result from some kind of bioterrorismattack.''

He added that pneumonia was not among the list of agents considered likely to form the basis of a bioterrorist attack.

The Department of Health said yesterday: ``We are not currently advising any restrictions on travel to these areas.''

The Hanoi outbreak started after an American businessman travelling from Shanghai viaHong Kong apparently infected up to 31 hospital workers, including the nurse who died. Canadian health officials reported that a mother and son, recently returned from a trip to Hong Kong, died earlier this month in Toronto.

Officials reported 42 cases in Hong Kong, while 16 infections have been diagno sed in Sin gap ore and a further three cases found in Taipei.

The Philippin es, Ind one sia and Thailand have also been affected, according to the WHO.

A spokeswoman for the Public Health Laboratory Service later added: ``The behaviour of this illness appears to be that of a naturally-occurring outbreak.''
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Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:Mar 17, 2003
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