Over 20 SARS Suspects Registered in Russia Since Last February

More than 20 suspected cases of atypical pneumonia have been registered in Russia since last February, chief state sanitary physician Gennady Onishchenko said on Tuesday in a live broadcast of the radio station Echo of Moscow.

He is most of all worried by the case registered in Blagoveshchensk, where a 25-year-old man has been hospitalized as a SARS suspect. He has never left Russia, stressed Onishchenko. Now he is in the intensive-therapy ward of the infection hospital and his condition "is stable bad", said Onischenko.

In his opinion, Russia's main problem in the SARS situation is the absence of the real virus specimen. The Russian sanitary services have to use the relative recommendations of the World Health Organization and "Russian physicians have no own experience for lack of trustworthy cases." "We are in need of the virus for the study and development of treatment diagnostics. We hope to get it from the WHO or Germany," said Onischenko.

At its Tuesday sitting the SARS headquarters considered Russia's laboratory capability to fight against atypical pneumonia. According to him, four Russian institutes are ready to produce test systems for SARS diagnostics on the basis of the WHO specimens given to Russia.

Today such test systems are produced by the Anti-Plague Institute in Saratov. Moscow has also got 200 test systems and is urgently preparing specialists to work with them. 500 test systems have been passed to St.Petersburg and Kalmykia in southern Russia. The next batch will go to Khabarovsk in Russia's Far Eastern region. All laboratory blood samples to prove the presence of the SARS virus will be sent to three cities - Novosibirsk, Khabarovsk and Moscow. In this way, Russia is arranging a system of trustworthy SARS laboratory diagnostics, said Onishchenko.

"So far, the Russian medical services are coping with the situation but very soon I may put before the government the question of closing the borders," said Gennady Onishchenko.

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