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Last Updated: Wednesday, 7 January, 2004, 07:01 GMT
China Sars man 'never ate civet'
By Louisa Lim
BBC correspondent in Beijing

China's latest Sars patient says he has never eaten a civet cat, as the authorities in the southern province of Guangdong continue to slaughter thousands of the animals as an anti-Sars measure.

Civet in Tokyo's Ueno Zoo
Part of mongoose family, distant relative of feline cat
Weasel-like face, cat-like body
Served in wild game restaurants
Estimated 10,000 in Guangdong markets
May have been the source of the virus which jumped to humans

The first Sars patient since the epidemic was announced under control in July, he described himself as an environmentalist who was against the slaughter of living creatures.

But the authorities in Guangdong now say that they will launch a rat extermination campaign after they have finished killing the civets.

In his first interview, the Sars patient told the Xinhua news agency he had never even seen a civet, let alone eaten one.

Tests had shown his virus was similar to one found in civets, prompting the government's decision to slaughter about 10,000 of the animals.

It is still not known how the man, Mr Luo, caught the disease, though there has been speculation that rats might have played a role.

In the interview, Mr Luo tells how he caught a baby mouse in the bath tub using a pair of chopsticks.

He describes himself as an environmentalist who is against the slaughter of living creatures, so he said he threw the animal out of the window.

International experts have said there is no conclusive published evidence to show that civets, mice or rats have the Sars virus.

Nonetheless, this has not stopped the health authorities in the southern city of Guangzhou announcing a rat extermination campaign.

That is to start on Saturday after the civet cull is finished.

One newspaper said the whole city would unite to kill rats, not leaving out a single household.

The BBC's Humphrey Hawksley
"Some think China might be over-reacting"

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