SARS escaped Beijing lab twice

Laboratory safety at the Chinese Institute of Virology under close scrutiny

Robert Walgate(walgate@scienceanalysed.com)
Apr 25, 2004

The latest outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) in China, with eight confirmed or suspected cases so far and hundreds quarantined, involves two researchers who were working with the virus in a Beijing research lab, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Monday (April 26).

“We suspect two people, a 26-year-old female postgraduate student and a 31-year-old male postdoc, were both infected, apparently in two separate incidents,” Bob Dietz, WHO spokesman in Beijing, told The Scientist.

The woman was admitted to hospital on April 4, but the man apparently became infected independently 2 weeks later, being hospitalized on April 17. Both worked at the Chinese Institute of Virology in Beijing, part of China's Center for Disease Control.

At a news conference in Manila this morning, Associated Press reported, WHO Western Pacific Regional Director Shigeru Omi criticized the laboratory's safeguards and said the authorities did not know...