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Last Updated:  Friday, 4 April, 2003, 12:28 GMT 13:28 UK
Sars 'fears' at French airport
Masked worker at Charles de Gaulle airport
Some staff at Charles de Gaulle have been seen wearing masks
Some staff at France's largest international airport have begun wearing face masks because of fears about the spread of a deadly virus.

The move came after increasing numbers of masked passengers began arriving off flights from Asia, where Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (Sars) was first identified.

No-one passing through the airport has actually been diagnosed with the disease.

Airport spokesman Sebastian Sarris told BBC News Online that while masks were being given to any staff who wanted them, few had so far decided to wear them.

Czech Republic - 17
France - 15
Germany - 5
Italy - 3
UK - 3
Romania - 2
Switzerland - 2
One each in Belgium, Ireland, Portugal, Russia, Sweden, Spain
He said passengers arriving from China, Vietnam and Singapore were carefully monitored for symptoms, and had to fill in questionnaires when they came into the country.

A young woman working for a company assisting disabled people at Charles de Gaulle airport told the French news agency, AFP: "All of us in the company are wearing masks, without fail. We asked the management to provide them."

Air France, the main operator at the airport, has provided passengers and crew with masks, but only requires them to be worn if someone shows signs of falling sick during a flight.

On 15 March the World Health Organisation issued a global alert about the virus, which is causing immense international concern in an era of widespread international air travel and migration.

But the WHO has also indicated that, as countries implement heightened surveillance measures and co-operate effectively, the spread of the disease should be contained.

There have been 53 suspected or confirmed cases of Sars in Europe, of which 15 were in France. No-one has yet died of the disease on the continent.

The first suspected case of Sars was announced in Russia on Friday.

Medical experts have cast doubt on the need for all passengers on international flights to wear masks, saying that it is more effective to provide them only to those showing symptoms of the disease.

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