Idiotic Internet Hoax Causes Hong Kong Panic

Financial Times reports, "Hong Kong was in a state of panic on Tuesday over the new deadly strain of pneumonia, which has killed 63 people and infected almost 1,900 around the world, after a hoax on a website prompted frantic buying in supermarkets. Thousands of people stripped shelves clean of rice, toilet paper and cooking oil after a teenager set up a dummy website that looked like the internet version of Ming Pao, a local Chinese daily, and declared that Hong Kong had been declared 'an infected area'. Government officials called a press conference to quell panic buying and crush rumours that Hong Kong's airport had been closed."

There is No Treatment for SARS - US Warns against Travel to East Asia

AP reports, "U.S. health officials said Saturday that none of the antiviral drugs and other treatment they have tested are effective against a flu-like disease that has killed at least 54 people and sickened nearly 1,500 others around the world. They also expanded their travel advisory, suggesting that anyone planning nonessential travel to mainland China, Hong Kong, Singapore or Hanoi, Vietnam, 'may wish to postpone their trips until further notice.' 'The global epidemic continues to expand,' said Dr. Julie Gerberding, head of the CDC. 'We recognize this as an epidemic that is evolving.' The CDC has reported 62 cases of severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS, in the US, and at least 35 cases have been reported in Canada, where three people have died. But the majority of the cases have been in Asia, where the illness is believed to have originated. On Saturday Dr. Carlo Urbani, the first doctor to realize the world was dealing with an unfamiliar disease died of the illness."

Asia Takes Severe Health Precautions as SARS Traced to Common Cold Virus Mutation

International Herald Tribune reports, "Faced with an increased infection rate of a mysterious killer pneumonia, Hong Kong closed schools for 1 million students Thursday and imposed a quarantine on more than a thousand residents. Separately, the World Health Organization urged airlines serving areas affected by the disease - including Hong Kong, Toronto, Singapore, Hanoi, Taiwan and China's Guangdong Province - to ask passengers if they had any flu-like symptoms... Meanwhile, researchers at the University of Hong Kong's faculty of medicine said they had successfully obtained DNA from the virus, which has spread from Hong Kong to infect more than a dozen countries on three continents. 'Hong Kong faces an epidemic that the world has never seen before,' said Tung Chee-hwa, the territory's chief executive. 'This is a very, very serious issue.' Governments and companies across Asia canceled events and shuttered venues where the epidemic is likely to spread."

Deadly Mystery Illness Puts World on Red Alert

NY Times reports, "As a mysterious respiratory illness spread to more countries, the World Health Organization yesterday issued a rare health alert, declaring the ailment 'a worldwide health threat' and urged all countries to help in seeking its cause and control. The agency said that in the last week it had received reports of more than 150 new suspected cases of the illness, now known as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, or SARS. The syndrome has caused at least nine deaths and it is unclear whether any of the survivors has fully recovered. It apparently does not respond to antiviral and antibiotic drugs. The cause has not been identified, and scientists do not know whether it is a virus or even an infectious agent. "