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SARS is as deadly as Bubonic plague

Discussion in '2003 Archive' started by Peter101, May 11, 2003.

  1. Peter101

    Peter101 New Member

    Mar 2, 2003
    Likes Received:
    The following is from a CNN web site:

    Rates are expressed in percentages
    Ebola 36 to 88
    Smallpox 30
    Gastrointestinal anthrax 25 to 60
    Cutaneous anthrax 20
    Dengue hemorrhagic fever 20
    Yellow fever 20
    Bubonic plague 15.4
    SARS 15
    Meningoccal disease* 12
    West Nile virus 12
    Tetanus 11
    Diphtheria 10
    Typhoid fever 10
    Rocky Mountain spotted fever 5.2
  2. Peter101

    Peter101 New Member

    Mar 2, 2003
    Likes Received:
    The following quote is also from CNN:

    A new study of 1,400 SARS patients in Hong Kong by London's Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine found that the mortality rate is much higher than originally thought and that older people are much likely to die from SARS.

    The study found as much as 50 percent of the people older than 60 died from the disease. For people under 60, the mortality rate was between 7 percent and 13 percent, said epidemiologist Dr. Azra Ghani.
  3. Jim1999

    Jim1999 <img src =/Jim1999.jpg>

    Aug 10, 2002
    Likes Received:
    Also consider living conditions in China and the free movement of the people. Their solution to disease is to pack up and move to the country. Their living style lends itself to spreading disease. They literally spit everywhere and urinate in the streets......both recently banned by the Chinese government,,I think the fine is $6.00.


  4. Su Wei

    Su Wei Active Member
    Site Supporter

    Feb 13, 2003
    Likes Received:
    Oh yes, they spit EVERYWHERE. It's disgusting. We were stepping on spitum all the way along a street market. yuck.
    But did you read the article i posted on the other SARS page? A man in Tianjin was actually lynched for spitting because of the present hysteria that SARS is causing in the country.

    Singaporean scientists have found that the SARS virus has mutated. two new strains have been found.
  5. Peter101

    Peter101 New Member

    Mar 2, 2003
    Likes Received:
    Bumping this up.
  6. Helen

    Helen <img src =/Helen2.gif>

    Aug 29, 2001
    Likes Received:
    Please link the website, Peter.

    For instance, from the American Academy of Family Physicians, here, http://www.aafp.org/afp/991101ap/2061.html
    we can read this:

    The American Academy of Family Physicians now recommends that all persons 50 years of age and older receive an annual influenza vaccination, because the rates of morbidity and mortality associated with influenza are high and vaccination is cost-effective. Reasons for lowering the recommended age for routine vaccination from 65 to 50 years of age include reductions in office visits, hospitalizations, time taken off work and associated costs. In working adults 18 to 64 years of age, the cost savings were estimated at $46.85 per person vaccinated. Furthermore, the fatality rate from influenza begins to rise at age 45 and is highest in persons with multiple chronic medical conditions. As in the past, recommendations target persons at high risk for complications, such as those with cardiac disease, lung disease and diabetes, as well as health care workers and residents of nursing homes. Severe allergy to eggs is a contraindication to influenza vaccination. (Am Fam Physician 1999;60:2061-70.)

    Influenza outbreaks of varying severity occur every winter. In recent U.S. influenza epidemics, about 20,000 deaths were estimated to be associated with influenza. The rate climbed to more than 40,000 excess deaths in selected epidemics.1 Furthermore, during some epidemics of influenza type A, there have been approximately 172,000 extra hospitalizations associated with influenza and pneumonia.2

    and from the Imperial College in London is the following, dated last Wednesday:

    cording to a paper published online today in The Lancet, which examines data from the first nine weeks of Hong Kongs epidemic, the case fatality rate, among those admitted to hospital, in patients 60 years of age and older is estimated to be far higher (43.3%, 95% confidence interval 35.2 to 52.4%) than those below 60 (13.2%, 95% confidence interval 9.8 to 16.8%).

    Similar estimates were obtained using a second statistical estimation method: 55.0% (95% confidence interval 45.3 to 64.7%) for those aged 60 or older and 6.8% (95% confidence interval (95% confidence interval 4.0 to 9.6%) in those below 60.


    now, take a look at this, dated today, from the Health Systems Trust:
    The Ministry of Health has announced that the Institut Pasteur, Madagascar has isolated influenza A (H3N2) viruses from 2 out of 39 samples taken from cases in
    Fianarantso a province, an area where outbreaks of an influenza-like illness have been reported. A total of 5 117 cases including 374 deaths (case-fatality rate of 7.3%) in 5 out of 13 districts in the country. (WHO: Communicable Disease Surveillance and Response, 7-13 August 2002)


    I don't believe the expected life span in Madagascar is much over 60; so this death rate, if primarily in those under 60, is at least comparable to, if not a little higher than, the similar ages of those affected with SARS.

    It's just that no one cares much about Madagascar...

    Here is something interesting from the Canadian Coalition for Influenza Immunization, here:

    Every year, various strains of influenza virus circulate throughout the world, often causing local outbreaks and regional epidemics. However, three to four times a century, a radical change will occur in the genetic material of the influenza A virus and a new viral subtype will appear which causes high mortality rates and is highly contagious.1,6 The first recorded influenza pandemic was in 1580. Since then, the periodicity of pandemics has ranged from 9-39 years. This periodic renewal of the vitality of the virus can lead to great loss of life, none so great as the Spanish flu of 1918-19, in which as many as one in 100 of the world’s population died.

    Pandemic influenza occurred at least three times in the 20th century: 1918-19, 1957-58 and 1968-69. Each was associated with high rates of morbidity, social disruption and high economic costs. Usually the highest rates of mortality are in infants and the elderly. In contrast, the Spanish flu, which resulted in an estimated 20 million deaths worldwide and 30,000 to 50,000 deaths in Canada, was associated with an unusually high fatality rate in young healthy adults (greatest number of deaths occurred in the 20-40 year-old age group). Nowadays, the main cause of death from influenza is bacterial pneumonia. In 1918-19, a greater than usual rate of primary viral pneumonia occurred, causing a fulminant illness resulting in death in a few days. Even now, primary influenza pneumonia is associated with a 70% to 80% mortality rate. There is no reason why a new influenza virus could not acquire the virulence and transmissibility characteristics of the Spanish flu virus.

    Ebola has a case fatality rate of 70-90%

    In checking some of this information, and comparing death rates, I ran across some highly suspect and sensationalistic reporting. For instance, the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918-19 has a worldwide mortality rate of 1%. That sounds like only 1% of the people who got it died, right? WRONG! What this means is that 1% of the entire world's population died from it! If SARS is compared to that pandemic, which killed MILLIONS of people, SARS is not a drop in the bucket.

    But it is not the world vs. the death rate that is being reported in SARS. It is the case fatality rate, and that is a lot more accurate. However, comparing the population death rate with the case fatality rate is not even apples and oranges, it's more like apples and donkeys! But reporting it as though one could compare the two rates makes it sound like SARS is unbelievably more deadly than the Spanish flu was. This is hysteria-mongering reporting.

    If SARS is simply another strain of nasty flu, and I think it probably is, that does not make it somehow less dangerous. It is dangerous. But the point is that ALL flu is dangerous! And the reason I pointed out the Ebola statistic is to point out that pneumonia resulting from flu is just as deadly!

    So why are they calling it SARS? Why not simply say, "This appears to be a strain of flu which is going rather quickly into pneumonia in the older folk and thus producing a death rate of 50% or more." It would even be better to say to the public, "This strain of flu is unknown up until now and it is not impossible to think we might have the beginnings of another pandemic on our hands if it spreads as easily as we think it might." That is borderline hysteria reporting, but not nearly as bad as what is going on.

    The SARS case fatality rate is approximately the same as standard influenza case fatality rate. The symptoms are the same; the complications are the same; the vulnerable population is the same...

    So why the hysteria-mongering? Who is profiting from this, if not the drug and medical supply companies?
  7. Peter101

    Peter101 New Member

    Mar 2, 2003
    Likes Received:
    Helen, I think you have misunderstood something you found on the Internet. You wrote about the flu and then directly below that you copied part of a report from Imperial College in London, citing high death rates. You seem to imply that the high death rates were that of flu, but in fact the article you quoted was talking about the death rate of SARS. I found an article in the Washington Post which confirms death rates for SARS much greater than flu. Here is the article:

    Estimated SARS Death Rate Rises to 15%
    WHO Revises Method of Calculating Mortality;
    Illness More Deadly to Elderly

    By Rob Stein and Ceci Connolly
    Washington Post Staff Writers
    Thursday, May 8, 2003; Page A26

    The death rate from severe acute
    respiratory syndrome has increased
    sharply since the epidemic began,
    and the new lung infection is now
    killing about 15 percent of victims
    overall, the World Health
    Organization concluded yesterday.

    It remains unclear whether the death
    rate is increasing as the disease
    spreads, or whether the true death
    rate is simply emerging as more
    data become available. In either case, the relatively high death rate
    underscores the seriousness of the
    threat, WHO said.

    "This is a disease that has a high
    case-fatality rate," said Klaus Stohr,
    WHO's top SARS scientist. "The
    case-fatality rate that we're seeing
    emphasizes even further the need to
    act decisively now."

    According to the new calculations,
    SARS kills less than 1 percent of
    those 24 or younger, but the death
    rate jumps to 6 percent at ages 25 to 44, to 15 percent for those 45 to 64
    and to more than 50 percent for
    those 65 and older, WHO said.

    That means SARS has a death rate
    far higher than those of most other
    respiratory infections. The typical flu season has a death rate of less than
    1 percent. The devastating Spanish
    flu of 1918 to 1919 had a death rate
    of less than 3 percent.

    SARS does not appear to be as
    contagious as the flu, but it is the
    first dangerous new disease that can
    be spread directly from one person
    to another to emerge in decades, and
    it remains untreatable.

    "We don't want to add to panic,"
    Stohr said. "But we want to show
    that this disease should not be

    The new estimates are based on an
    analysis of the most recent data
    from everywhere SARS has erupted
    -- Canada, China, Singapore,
    Vietnam and Hong Kong -- and
    represent the first attempt to
    produce a comprehensive picture of
    the disease's mortality, WHO said.
    An independent estimate released
    the day before in the Lancet medical
    journal, which looked only at Hong
    Kong, projected that the mortality
    rate there could eventually hit about
    20 percent.

    Meanwhile, the U.S. Centers for
    Disease Control and Prevention,
    under intense pressure from WHO, said

    yesterday that it will begin reporting
    more detailed information on SARS cases as
    early as today.

    The CDC has refused to release specific data
    on the 63 probable SARS cases
    it has been tracking, notably how and where
    those patients were infected,
    whether they spread SARS to others, their
    ages, medical history and travel

    The Atlanta-based agency has instead released
    state-by-state figures on
    suspected and probable cases and has
    characterized them only in general
    terms. WHO experts said that without the more
    detailed information, it
    becomes far more difficult, if not
    impossible, to monitor the worldwide trends of
    the epidemic.

    "We need to make sure we know where disease
    is occurring and that disease is
    not exported from those sites to other
    countries," said David L. Heymann, who
    heads WHO's communicable diseases division.

    No one has suggested that the United States
    is "exporting" SARS cases, but the
    information gleaned here could help
    scientists track the movement of the virus
    and better understand how it behaves.

    If federal health officials were to learn,
    for instance, that a patient in the United
    States had likely contracted the illness in a
    country that has not been identified
    as a SARS hot spot, that could be an early
    warning of another problem area.
    Similarly, if new cases arise in individuals
    who recently traveled to Canada or
    Vietnam, that would suggest that those
    countries have not put the outbreak
    behind them.

    "Infectious diseases know and respect no
    borders," Heymann told members of
    a House oversight panel at a hearing
    yesterday. "Information provided early can
    help nations stop outbreaks."

    WHO initially estimated that the death rate
    from SARS was less than 4
    percent. The estimate climbed to a range of 6
    percent to 10 percent in recent
    weeks as the toll mounted.

    WHO said the mortality rate ranges from a low
    of 8 percent in Hanoi, the site
    of one of the earliest outbreaks, to a high
    of 15 percent to 19 percent in
    Canada. Hong Kong currently has a death rate
    of 11 percent to 17 percent,
    compared with 13 percent to 15 percent in
    Singapore and 5 percent to 13
    percent in China.

    The variations among countries, and the
    rising death rate overall, may be the
    result of the disease hitting older people
    during later outbreaks. It could also be
    the result of the disease producing a more
    lethal form of the illness in some
    places, such as Hong Kong, or simply that
    enough time has passed to get a
    more accurate estimate, Stohr said.

    "Overall, the case-fatality rate has
    increased globally. That we know. There
    appears to be an evolution over time," Stohr
  8. Peter101

    Peter101 New Member

    Mar 2, 2003
    Likes Received:
    &gt;&gt;&gt;&gt;&gt;So why are they calling it SARS? Why not simply say, "This appears to be a strain of flu which is going rather quickly into pneumonia in the older folk and thus producing a death rate of 50% or more." &lt;&lt;&lt;&lt;&lt;

    Because it is not the same disease as flu. SARS is caused by a different type of virus that produces different symptoms and has a much higher death rate than flu. There are of course various flu strains and they vary because of differences in the virus, but the virus that causes SARS is a Corona virus, different from flu viruses. The great flu epidemic of 1918 did have a high mortality rate, which is reported at less than 3 percent. But the best available figure for the SARS mortality is 15%, which is several times higher than the flu outbreak of 1918, and many times higher than the fatality rate of recent flu epidemics, which are less than 1 percent.
  9. Peter101

    Peter101 New Member

    Mar 2, 2003
    Likes Received:

    For emphasis, I am posting here an important paragraph of the Washington post story, which directly contradicts what you have been claiming about SARS:

    "That means SARS has a death rate
    far higher than those of most other
    respiratory infections. The typical flu season has a death rate of less than
    1 percent. The devastating Spanish
    flu of 1918 to 1919 had a death rate
    of less than 3 percent."
  10. Peter101

    Peter101 New Member

    Mar 2, 2003
    Likes Received:
    &gt;&gt;&gt;&gt;&gt;But reporting it as though one could compare the two rates makes it sound like SARS is unbelievably more deadly than the Spanish flu was. This is hysteria-mongering reporting.&lt;&lt;&lt;&lt;&lt;

    No, Helen, the panic in China and Hong Kong is not based on hysteria, but on the real fact that SARS is more deadly than the Spanish flu and many times more deadly than ordinary flu. If China cannot contain it, millions will die in China alone and it will probably spread here. The only good news is that it does seem possible to contain it and also it is perhaps not as contagious as flu. But this is one serious disease.
  11. Helen

    Helen <img src =/Helen2.gif>

    Aug 29, 2001
    Likes Received:
    Methinks you need me to remind you what statistics are being used. When they talk about the death rate for the 1918 epidemic, they are talking about the percentage of people alive in the world at that time who were killed by the flu. The number was in the millions. What was the death rate of those who actually caught the Spanish flu? Probably incredibly high, but we do not have statistics on that which I could find. However, according to the news reports of the day, it was considered that someone was more likely to die from it than not, so I would say that the death rate for those who actually caught the flu may have been as high as 50-60%.

    This is far, FAR greater than the death rate among those who contract SARS.

    That is what I was talking about when I said it was as different as apples and donkeys. And the use of the 1% or 3% of deaths in the 1918-19 pandemic does not seem like much, but one percent of the world's population is enormous.

    SARS at this point doesn't even compare.

    And yes, I know the article listed the SARS death rates as CASE (those who get it) MORTALITIES (those who die from it). I posted that article as a reference for that. Please, please do not mistake about those statistics. First of all, it is mostly older people who are dying from it. This is typical of both influenza and pneumonia. Secondly, when any kind of flu goes into pneumonia, the death rate skyrockets.

    When the panic started in March the virus had not been identified and only nine people were listed as dead from it:

    At about that time, the virus was 'indentified':
    The researchers have identified the mystery respiratory illness at the heart of a global health scare as a virus from the paramyxoviridae family, which are responsible for conditions such as mumps and measles.

    whoops, wrong identification:
    by April 17, this was reported:
    It has been suspected for about two weeks, but now it's official: The cause of SARS, severe acute respiratory syndrome, is a new virus. The World Health Organization made the announcement this week. The virus is a type of coronavirus, a viral family whose other members cause colds in humans. This new one, scientists have suggested, should be named to commemorate Carlo Urbani, the WHO physician who identified the syndrome, became ill from it himself, and died from it almost three weeks ago.

    ...There's still no good treatment for SARS, which at last count has sickened slightly more than 3,000 people worldwide; just over 95 percent of them survive.


    Aa 5% death rate overall for everyone who contracts it, whether or not it goes into pneumonia is actually not bad at all. Figure most of those who die are the elderly who die with flu and pneumonia at a far greater rate than all other age groups combined.

    On the assumption that it is cause by this previously unknown coronavirus...

    Chinese scientists have finished complete genomic sequencing of another isolate of a virus that is associated with severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS).

    A collaborative effort by scientists at the Institute of Microbiology and Epidemiology, Chinese Academy of Military Medical Sciences and the Beijing Genomics Institute (BGI), Chinese Academy of Sciences resulted in a comprehensive paper published on Saturday on the Internet edition of the Chinese Science Bulletin.

    By comparing the complete sequence of the Isolate BJ01 they produced and those of four other isolates identified in the United States, Canada and Hong Kong, scientists are able to get closer to "the real killers" in the SARS-associated virus, said Yang Huanming, director of the BGI and one of the co-authors.

    The research conducted so far shows the SARS-associated virus is very new -- unlike all other known viruses.


    Not only that, so far they have ten isolates!

    May 5, 2003 (CIDRAP News) – Laboratory studies have shown that the SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) coronavirus can survive up to 2 days on plastic surfaces and at least that long in human feces, the World Health Organization (WHO) has announced.

    As of April 11, the death rate was about 3.3%:
    Doctors are trying to explain why a virus that moves with relative ease through the adult population, so far infecting 3,000 worldwide with more than 100 dead, has come up against something of an immunological wall when it comes to youngsters.

    Wait a minute....kids aren't getting it! Why not? Possibly because they are getting so many colds just building up their immunities that their bodies are ready for this one. Why ready? Because it is almost the same as other junk they have battled; the virus is not really that different as far as their immune systems are concerned.

    SARS virus cases

    Number of people affected by the flulike virus severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) worldwide.
    As of May 13, 2003

    Country...Cases*...Deaths...Recovered...% deaths
    Hong Kong.1,689....225......1,090.......13.3%
    Vietnam......63......5.........58....... 8%


    I added the rounded off percentages. The stats are taken from this page: http://www.msnbc.com/news/885653.asp?0cl=cR

    Wow! Look at the percentage of people dead in the Philippines! The press could have a heyday with that one! Of course, it's only two out of ten cases diagnosed, but why fool around with that when 20% can really help with the sales of the news?!

    Now take a look at this:
    Q: What’s the mortality rate for SARS?
    A: CDC estimated it at about 3 percent, which is much lower than other infectious diseases, but recent reports from Hong Kong and Singapore suggest it might get as high as 10 percent.

    It's from here: http://www.msnbc.com/news/904137.asp?0cb=-91b145993

    Now, I don't know what happened in Canada, but I do know about Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Singapore. They are filthy. Open sewers. I have been to both Taiwan and Hong Kong and the stench in some areas of those open sewers is choking. I could not find much information on the isolates they have identified, except I know that the one from Canada was unique, but I will bet that the isolates from the areas with open sewage is of a different variety than some of the others -- more deadly? I don't know. But I do know that the conditions in all three of those places are pretty bad for basic cleanliness. I got dysentary (mildly, which was still a little like dying with pain sitting on the throne...) twice in Taiwan. How? Tea water which had not been boiled long enough in restaurants!

    ITM, there are no deaths from SARS in the United States.

    Now, there could be another reason for that. It could be that the doctors are 'misdiagnosing' it as influenza, eh? The symptoms are EXACTLY the same...

    Also from the above page, however, is a wee bit of honesty about the virus itself:

    This new coronavirus is the leading hypothesis for the cause of SARS, but other viruses are also under investigation.
    Coronaviruses are a common cause of mild to moderate upper-respiratory illness in humans.

    Peter, they don't know what it is. But it is a lot like flu! And so far the death rate is not nearly as bad as the press is hysterically making it out to be.

    Who is profiting? There is some reason for this manufactured hysteria, because that is exactly what it is.
  12. Peter101

    Peter101 New Member

    Mar 2, 2003
    Likes Received:
    &gt;&gt;&gt;&gt;&gt;&gt;Peter, they don't know what it is. But it is a lot like flu! And so far the death rate is not nearly as bad as the press is hysterically making it out to be.&lt;&lt;&lt;&lt;&lt;&lt;

    Seems to me that the press is only reporting the factual death rate. If you have evidence to the contrary, that the press is not correctly reporting it, then show that evidence. Seems that you initially got it wrong and find it hard to own up to it. The Washington Post article says that the death rate from SARS is much greater than for the common flu. You managed to pull a 60 percent death rate out of the air, for the 1918 flu. I don't think you have any solid basis for that number. But whatever the death rate in 1918, the SARS death rate, at 15 percent is very serious and far greater than the death rate of common flu - in spite of your attempts to confuse the issue.

    &gt;&gt;&gt;The symptoms are EXACTLY the same...&lt;&lt;&lt;&lt;&lt;

    No, the symptoms are not exactly the same...similar but not precisely the same. In SARS, there is a greater percentage of patients with severe breathing problems, which is not present in common flu.

    &gt;&gt;&gt;&gt;Now take a look at this:
    Q: What’s the mortality rate for SARS?
    A: CDC estimated it at about 3 percent, which is much lower than other infectious diseases, but recent reports from Hong Kong and Singapore suggest it might get as high as 10 percent.&lt;&lt;&lt;&lt;&lt;&lt;

    That is several weeks old. A new study was released recently that puts it at 15 percent. This seems to be the best information currently available.

    &gt;&gt;&gt;&gt;&gt;&gt;Who is profiting? There is some reason for this manufactured hysteria, because that is exactly what it is.&lt;&lt;&lt;&lt;&lt;&lt;&lt;

    Rubbish. You are looking at a disease that if not brought under control will change the history of the world. It is that serious. If unchecked it will kill millions and greatly affect the world economy. It has already greatly impacted the economy of Hong Kong.

    [ May 14, 2003, 02:29 AM: Message edited by: Peter101 ]
  13. Peter101

    Peter101 New Member

    Mar 2, 2003
    Likes Received:
    SARS Spreads to Taiwan's South, Hospital Hit
    Wed May 14, 2003 01:57 AM ET
    TAIPEI (Reuters) - Taiwan quarantined 110 medical workers at a major hospital on Wednesday in a bid to contain the first outbreak of SARS in the island's south.
    The news sparked fears of a wider outbreak in Taiwan and was another setback to government predictions that SARS would be under control in four to five weeks.

    Taiwan is already struggling to contain a major outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) in the north and on Wednesday reported another death and 18 new infections, bringing the death toll to 31 and probable cases to 238.

    The island has the third-highest number of deaths and infections in the world after China and Hong Kong.

    Health officials said a woman who visited a SARS-hit hospital in the capital Taipei last month had likely spread the virus to 11 nurses and eight patients at the Chang Gung Memorial Hospital in Kaohsiung, the island's second largest city.

    Health officials said 110 health workers at the hospital were placed under quarantine and tried to reassure people there was no need for the hospital to be sealed.

    "This is a limited-cluster infection within a single ward," Chen Tzay-jinn, director-general of the Center for Disease Control, told a news conference.

    Until the Chang Gung outbreak, the majority of Taiwan's SARS cases were linked to a single hospital in Taipei.

    The government has stepped up measures to try to control the spread of the respiratory disease, such as setting up video cameras in the homes of people under quarantine orders and is considering ordering police to track down violators.

    Taipei is being disinfected district by district and all people taking trains, the subway and aircraft must wear masks. All restaurant workers are also required to wear masks.

    Taiwan's central bank and Ministry of Finance said on Wednesday they would suspend their daily media briefings until the illness was brought under control.

    Taiwan also had 265 suspected SARS cases, four more than reported on Tuesday, the Department of Health said.
  14. Peter101

    Peter101 New Member

    Mar 2, 2003
    Likes Received:
    From CNN:

    BEIJING, China -- China has threatened to execute or jail for life anyone who deliberately spreads the killer SARS virus.

    The news came as officials in Taiwan announced the biggest one-day jump in SARS cases on the island amid a raft of hospital infections.

    China issued a harsh interpretation of its laws on contagious disease after reports people were violating quarantine orders or refusing to admit to the symptoms.

    The Supreme Court warning Thursday said people who violate quarantines and spread the virus can be imprisoned for up to seven years, China's official Xinhua news agency reported.

    Those who cause death or serious injury by "deliberately spreading" the virus can be sentenced to prison terms of 10 years to life or might be executed.

    China recorded four SARS deaths on Thursday, pushing its death toll to 271, and 52 new cases. It has about two-thirds of the world's 7,700 known SARS cases.

    Human rights groups said the punishment, laid down by the Supreme Court and the chief prosecutor, was not approved by China's parliament and violated human rights convenants.

    "The measure is too extreme and the punishment too heavy," Hong Kong-based rights activist Frank Lu told Reuters by telephone.

    Chinese officials have acknowledged health controls might not be sufficient to contain the epidemic.

    Despite a government pledge to be more open with information, Chinese censors blocked the airing of a CNN International interview that criticized the government's handling of SARS. (Full story)

    Meanwhile, Taiwan reported 26 new SARS cases and three more deaths on Thursday. (SARS shuts emergency room)

    Taiwan, with only a few cases of SARS until late April, now has 264 confirmed cases and 34 deaths -- the worst in the world after mainland China and Hong Kong.

    Authorities quarantined about 400 people at two major hospitals -- one in Taipei and another in the southern city of Kaohsiung -- after scores of people in them began showing symptoms.

    A third hospital, the Mackay Memorial Hospital in Taipei, reported a probable outbreak after seven doctors and nurses developed SARS-like symptoms.

    But there was good news for Canada and Singapore. The WHO said it had taken Canada off its list of areas where SARS was spreading. (SARS no longer spreading)

    Canada, with 24 SARS deaths, is the only country outside Asia where people have died, all of them in the area around the financial capital Toronto.

    The WHO also welcomed Singapore's move to isolate sick nurses and patients at the city state's largest mental hospital, but said other illnesses might be responsible.

    Singapore, with some of the world's strictest anti-SARS measures, looked to have the disease under control until the possible cases announced on Wednesday.

    Travel executives meeting in the Philippines said the virus is causing more damage to the global airline industry than the September 11 attacks and the War in Iraq, combined.

    "This is a crisis of major proportions," said Thomas Andrew Drysdale, regional director for the International Air Transport Association, adding that the industry lost US$10 billion so far this year on top of US$30 billion in 2002.

    "At no time in the history of aviation have we ever seen declines of the magnitude that we are now seeing in the Asian region as a result of SARS," he said. "Virtually every airline in the world is affected."

    The global death toll climbed past 600 on Thursday after Hong Kong reported seven deaths, China four and Taiwan three.

    Thailand is taking new measures to control the spread of SARS, issuing so-called "SARS passports" to travelers arriving from SARS-affected countries.

    Those travelers are required to record their health status in the booklets for ten days -- the incubation time for the virus.

    In Hong Kong, where 234 people have died, new SARS cases have dropped into the single digits for 12 consecutive days. Just five new cases were reported in the territory Thursday, for a total of 1,703. Authorities reported another seven deaths.