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Last Updated:  Tuesday, 8 April, 2003, 04:42 GMT 05:42 UK
Sars hits foreigners in China
A nurse wearing a surgical mask, listens to a Sars patient at the institute of tropical diseases at Hanois Bach Mai hospital
Most of those infected with Sars survive
An American teacher and a Chinese Canadian couple have been infected by the pneumonia-type Sars virus in southern China.

The announcement of the infections follows the death of a Finnish official with the International Labour Organisation from Sars on Sunday.

Pekka Aro, 53, died in Beijing bringing the country's death toll from the virus to 53.

The death and infection of foreigners in China could pose serious problems for the government which has been trying to allay fears about the illness.

The American teacher was based in Shenzhen, bordering Hong Kong.

China 1,268 cases (53 deaths)
Hong Kong 883 (23)
Singapore 106 (6)
Vietnam 62 (4)
Canada 90 (9)
Thailand 7 (2)
Malaysia 1 (1)
Source: World Health Organization
At least 100 people worldwide are thought to have died from the virus.

On Monday, Beijing's authorities announced they would disinfect all five diplomatic compounds housing businessmen, journalists and diplomats.

The illness is already having a severe economic impact on China and beyond.

The United States' Continental Airlines, joining a number of carriers cutting services, suspended non-stop flights between New York and Hong Kong for two months because of a drop in demand.

Canadian concerns

In Canada, where the disease has killed at least 10 people, the head of the central bank warned the virus could have economic consequences there.

An epidemic like Sars, if it carries on, is obviously going to be quite serious but we don't know that. We know there is going to be a short-term impact
David Dodge
"An epidemic like Sars, if it carries on, is obviously going to be quite serious but we don't know that. We know there is going to be a short-term impact," Bank of Canada Governor David Dodge said.

The virus shows no signs of being contained.

According to local reports, Sars has spread to Hong Kong's Tuen Mun district where a hospital is treating dozens of cases.

On Tuesday, Singapore said six more nurses had been infected with the virus while India reported its first case - a US citizen who had been taken ill after travelling to Bombay from China.

Meanwhile Australia has become the latest country to announce tough new defences against the deadly bug, giving health authorities the power to forcibly detain anyone showing its symptoms.

School closures

The new regulations also allow for the closure of schools, public places and of Australia's borders.

Australia's decision follows similarly tough announcements from Malaysia, Singapore and the US, as countries battle to prevent the spread of the illness, which is now thought to have infected more than 2,700.

Gro Harlem Brundtland
Next time something strange and new comes... let us come in as quickly as possible
Gro Harlem Brundtland

China, where the virus is thought to have first emerged, has been publicly criticised by the head of the World Health Organization (WHO), Gro Harlem Brundtland, for not quickly reporting the first cases.

"Next time something strange and new comes... let us come in as quickly as possible," she said.

Meanwhile, Chinese scientists have announced that they have detected the presence of the bacterium chlamydia - responsible for a common sexually transmitted disease - in some Sars victims.

They say this raises the possibility that the disease is caused by the bacterium acting in tandem with another pathogen, such as a virus from the corona family.

In other developments:

  • Reports from Bhutan say the trade and industry minister has been among the first people to be quarantined under a new law imposed on returning nationals who may have been exposed to Sars.

    How Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome has spread around the world

  • The Malaysian Government says it is not going to allow its nationals to return home from abroad if they show symptoms of Sars.

  • In the US, President George W Bush issues an executive order allowing the forced quarantine of patients with Sars if deemed necessary by the health secretary.

  • Pakistan says it will quarantine anyone from affected countries suspected of being infected with Sars.

    The BBC's Gill Higgins
    "Their [Asia's] experience acts as a warning for others to be prepared"

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