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Words in the News
Monday 05 January 2004
New SARS case
woman in mask China's health ministry has confirmed that a man in Southern China is suffering from Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, or SARS. It is the first confirmed case in China since July 2003. The World Health Organisation has urged the Chinese authorities to take precautions while killing thousands of civet cats, which are believed to be the source of SARS. This report from Daniel Schweimler.
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The authorities in Guangdong province in southern China have said that tens of thousands of the masked palm civet and related animals, such as raccoon dogs and Chinese ferret badgers, are likely to be slaughtered and they will close down all wild animal markets in the region. They will also try to stop civets being brought in from neighbouring areas.

But much of the trade in civets is already illegal and the WHO has warned the authorities about the dangers of driving the market further underground. They say that could be counterproductive in trying to contain SARS.

Civets are regularly sold in live animal markets and are a prized dish in wildlife restaurants. They are also believed to have medicinal properties. Trade in the mammal, which has a body like a cat, long legs, a long tail and a pointed snout, was banned last April amid sweeping efforts to stop the spread of SARS.

That prohibition was lifted in August despite warnings by scientists that the animals might still be a health threat. Traders reported, however, that the animal began disappearing from markets soon after scientists linked them with the SARS epidemic. Researchers said it was unlikely that diners could get SARS directly from eating the meat but added that it was more likely to pass to those people who bred or butchered the animals.

Daniel Schweimler, BBC World Service, London
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the authorities
government officials
driving the market further underground
making the illegal sales more secret and more difficult to prevent
having the opposite effect from what is intended
to contain
to restrict; to control and prevent from increasing
a prized dish
food that is prepared in a particular style and that is wanted and admired because it is rare and of good quality
to have medicinal properties
to contain useful substances to treat and cure illness
widespread; great
that prohibition was lifted
that ban was removed
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