April 5, 2003 - Peace Corps Press Release: Peace Corps Suspends Program in China

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By Admin1 (admin) on Saturday, April 05, 2003 - 10:12 pm: Edit Post

Peace Corps Suspends Program in China

Read and comment on this Peace Corps Press Release accouncing the temporary suspension of the Peace Corps program in China after growing concerns with the outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) at:

Peace Corps Suspends Program in China*

* This link was active on the date it was posted. PCOL is not responsible for broken links which may have changed.

Peace Corps Suspends Program in China

Washington, D.C. April 5, 2003 – Today, Peace Corps Director Gaddi H. Vasquez announced the temporary suspension of the Peace Corps program in China.

“The health and safety of Peace Corps volunteers is the highest priority of the Agency. After a thorough assessment of growing concerns with regard to the outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), it was determined that it would be in the best interest of the volunteers to temporarily suspend the program in China,” stated Director Vasquez. “We will continue to monitor developments and look forward to returning Peace Corps volunteers to China when conditions permit.”

The Office of Medical Services (OMS) at Peace Corps headquarters in Washington, D.C. is in daily contact with Peace Corps medical officers in China. OMS also consults frequently with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) to stay apprised of the latest developments.

Families are encouraged to contact the Peace Corps’ Office of Special Services with any questions or concerns they may have. Special Services maintains a 24 hours a day, 7 days a week duty system. The telephone number during standard office hours is 1-800-424-8580, Extension 1470; the after hours number is 202-638-2574. Special Services may also be contacted via e-mail at ossdutyofficer@peacecorps.gov.

For recent updates from the CDC and WHO please consult the corresponding websites: www.cdc.gov/travel and www.who.int/en.
More about Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS)

Read more about Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) in this story from the Washington Post at:

Official Says China Erred on Outbreak

Official Says China Erred on Outbreak

Rare Apology Cites 'Poor Coordination'

By John Pomfret
Washington Post Foreign Service
Saturday, April 5, 2003; Page A14

GUANGZHOU, China, April 4 -- A top Chinese health official apologized today for failing to inform the public about a sometimes fatal respiratory illness that has infected more than 2,000 people worldwide.

The apology, delivered by the head of China's Center for Disease Control, was unprecedented for a government that almost never acknowledges mistakes. It was even more unusual because it came a day after the minister of health denied that the government had committed any errors in handling the outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS.

"Today, we apologize to everyone," said Li Liming, director of the Chinese CDC. Li made his comments at a news conference to which foreign reporters were not invited. A tape recording of the event was later broadcast in Hong Kong.

"Our medical departments and our mass media suffered poor coordination," Li said. "We weren't able to muster our forces in helping to provide everyone with scientific publicity and allowing the masses to get hold of this sort of knowledge."

Li's statement was not immediately reported by Chinese media. It was not known whether his remarks were authorized by senior officials or whether Li, highly regarded in his field, had taken the unusual step of articulating the widespread view on his own. Other officials who have released unauthorized material about SARS have lost their jobs. A spokesman at the Beijing office of the Chinese CDC was fired in mid-March after he told reporters that a husband and wife in the city had died. The information was later confirmed by the government.

A four-member team from the World Health Organization, meanwhile, began investigations today in Foshan, 25 miles southwest of Guangzhou, the Guangdong provincial capital. The researchers are hoping to trace information about the origins of SARS in the province. The disease was first detected in the vicinity of Foshan, a heavily populated area where factories stand close to shrimp, pig and duck farms.

Health authorities said they may have identified the first case of SARS in the region. They are studying the case of an unidentified local government official in a nearby village who contracted the disease in November and was released from a hospital in January. He is believed to have infected at least four people.

"It's going to be a tricky task to find out what went on," said Chris Powell, a spokesman for the WHO team, adding that investigators had not met the man. "It's going to be a long job, a long epidemiological study to try to find out exactly how the infection was transmitted."

The WHO updated its travel warning today: "International travelers should be aware of the main symptoms of SARS: high fever, dry cough, shortness of breath or breathing difficulties," it said in an advisory on its Web site. "Persons who experience these symptoms and who have been in an affected area are advised to see a doctor."

The WHO recommends that travelers postpone nonessential trips to Hong Kong and Guangdong, but said it was safe to use those airports as a transfer point for connections elsewhere.

SARS has infected at least 2,353 people in 18 countries and has killed at least 84. Forty of those deaths were in Guangdong province.

Elsewhere in Asia, there was continued concern about new cases of the disease. Hong Kong reported an additional death and 27 new cases. There have been at least 761 cases and 18 deaths in the Chinese territory. Singapore's Health Ministry reported a woman died today from SARS, the seventh death there among at least 100 reported cases. Health Minister Lim Hng Kiang said all visitors arriving in Singapore beginning Monday must sign a declaration saying they do not have SARS.

© 2003 The Washington Post Company

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This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - China; Safety and Security of Volunteers; SARS; Infectious Disease



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