BEIJING – The World Health Organization (search) said it wants samples from China's suspected SARS case sent to labs overseas for testing because local tests have been inconclusive.
Meanwhile, health departments throughout China (search) stepped up anti-SARS measures Sunday, a day after authorities announced the nation's first suspected case of the disease since July.
The capital Beijing, which was hard-hit by severe acute respiratory syndrome (search) earlier this year, ordered airport and railway stations to tighten health checks on travelers and to send anyone with a high fever to a government-designated hospital, the official Xinhua News Agency reported.
Shanghai has been placed on "high alert," Xinhua said, without providing details.
The patient who is suspected of having SARS was in stable condition Sunday at a hospital in the southern city of Guangzhou, a government official said.
"It will take several days to make the final diagnosis," said the official from the anti-SARS office for Guangdong province, of which Guangzhou is the capital. The official gave only his family name, Wei.
China's Ministry of Health said via Xinhua that the patient's temperature was normal on Sunday for the fourth straight day. People who were in contact with the patient before he was hospitalized have thus far shown no SARS symptoms, the ministry said.
WHO said in a news release that tests have been carried out at China's Centers for Disease Control, or CDC, and the Guangdong provincial CDC but "results at this stage are inconclusive."
As such, "WHO has suggested that samples be sent overseas for international verification of the results," it said.
The patient, a 32-year-old television station employee, checked into a hospital in Guangzhou on Dec. 20 with a headache and fever, Xinhua has reported. It said the man was transferred Wednesday to a quarantine ward and declared a suspected SARS case on Friday.
WHO said the patient had no known contact with high-risk groups such as health workers or animal handlers in the weeks prior to becoming sick, making the source of his possible infection a mystery.
Guangdong province was where the world's first known SARS case was recorded in November 2002.
The Chinese government was harshly criticized both at home and abroad for withholding news of the SARS outbreak in its early months.
The pneumonia-like viral disease sickened nearly 8,100 people worldwide, including 774 who died, before subsiding in June, according to WHO. SARS killed 349 people on China's mainland and sickened more than 5,000.
Beijing said in July the mainland's last 12 patients had been declared free of the disease.