Train carrying deadly virus arrives in Moscow

A Chinese woman has died from what may be Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) while traveling on a train from the Far East Russian city of Blagoveshchensk to Moscow, a medical source said on Wednesday.

The train was stopped at the Zuyevka station in central Russia's Kirov Region, and 53 passengers, all Chinese nationals, were sent to a local hospital.

The Kirov Region administration said on its website that the Chinese nationals had been quarantined as "the cause of the death of the young woman has not yet been established."

It also said that "all necessary measures" had been taken to prevent the spread of "possible infection."

The carriage in which the 23-year-old woman was travelling was disconnected from the rest of the train, which then continued on its way to the capital. It is due to arrive in north Moscow's Yaroslavl train terminal early on Thursday.

A spokesman for Russia's sanitary watchdog was unable to confirm that the woman had died from SARS, Ria-Novosti reports.

"Doctors are currently establishing a preliminary diagnosis," he said.

The Chinese embassy in Moscow has said it has no information on the incident.

Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome is a respiratory disease in humans which is caused by the SARS coronavirus.

There has been one near pandemic to date, between November 2002 and July 2003, with 8,096 known infected cases and 774 deaths (a case-fatality rate of 9.6%) worldwide being listed in the World Health Organization's (WHO) 21 April 2004 concluding report. Within a matter of weeks in early 2003, SARS spread from the Guangdong province of China to rapidly infect individuals in some 37 countries around the world.

Mortality by age group as of 8 May 2003 is below 1 percent for people aged 24 or younger, 6 percent for those 25 to 44, 15 percent in those 45 to 64 and more than 50 percent for those over 65. For comparison, the case fatality rate for influenza is usually around 0.6 percent (primarily among the elderly) but can rise as high as 33 percent in locally severe epidemics of new strains. The mortality rate of the primary viral pneumonia form is about 70 percent.

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Author`s name Alex Naumov