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Morbid Mystery Tour: Epidemic from China is encircling globe

An outbreak of deadly pneumonia that seems to have begun in southern China spread this month to at least two other continents, including North America. Initial tests have given clues to the identity of the pathogen involved in the infection, which health officials have dubbed severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS).

At least 300 cases of SARS have been tallied in mainland China, where the epidemic has apparently been smoldering since last November. Elsewhere, more than 450 cases and at least 17 deaths have been attributed to the disease, according to the World Health Organization (WHO) in Geneva.

The new epidemic "reminds us that . . . an emerging problem in one part of the world will soon be a problem for all of us," said Julie Gerberding, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta.

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