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Rumors of pneumonia cases reignite SARS fears in China

Cases of atypical pneumonia allegedly emerging in Hubei Province capital of Wuhan

Weibo screenshot 

Weibo screenshot  (CNA photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Reports of a number of atypical pneumonia cases surfacing in the central Chinese city of Wuhan have evoked frightening memories of the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) outbreak that originated in China, claiming over 700 lives in 37 countries between 2002 and 2003.

Photos of official documents allegedly issued by the health authorities of Wuhan on Monday (Dec. 30) began circulating on Chinese social media and messaging platforms WeChat and Weibo Tuesday morning (Dec. 31), reported CNA.

In an “urgent notice,” medical institutions of all levels in the provincial capital of Hubei Province were instructed to report to authorities the number of patients exhibiting abnormal pneumonia symptoms in the past week by 4 p.m. on Monday, as there had been a number of such cases “due to unidentified causes” from a local seafood market. Another document issued the same day asked medical facilities to duly treat such patients and warned against malpractice.

Screenshots of conversations among local healthcare staff have also gone viral online. They include allegations of confirmed SARS cases and quarantine measures that have been allegedly implemented at the city’s hospitals.

The official documents were verified by the Chinese authorities on Tuesday, China Business Network reported. At least 27 pneumonia cases have been confirmed in Wuhan, with patients developing fever and difficulty breathing and showing evidence of pulmonary infiltrates. All of the patients affected have been quarantined, and a medical task force has been put together to investigate the cause of the viral infections, the report added.