BEIJING — China said today that it had sealed off a SARS research laboratory in the capital after two lab workers contracted the disease and the mother of one died, marking the world's first such death this year.
A nurse who cared for one of the lab workers is also suspected of having SARS and is in isolation, officials said.
A virus control institute, part of China's disease control agency, was ordered sealed off, meaning people cannot go in or out, state media reported.
Last year's SARS outbreak triggered a global health crisis, killing 774 people and infecting more than 8,000. China reported 349 deaths, the last one in July.
SARS, or severe acute respiratory syndrome, first emerged in southern China in November 2002.
China was screening thousands of travelers for fevers at airports and train stations today in a massive effort to block a new outbreak. Hundreds of people with possible exposure to the virus were being held for observation.
The woman who died was the mother of a female lab worker from the eastern province of Anhui. She is believed to have caught the virus from her daughter, the government said. The daughter was treated last month at a Beijing hospital, where she came into contact with the nurse.
The mother, hospitalized April 8 with a fever and unidentified virus, died Monday and was cremated, the ministry said. A fever is one of the key symptoms of SARS, along with coughing and shortness of breath.
The ministry said the mother had a heart problem, although it wasn't clear whether that was related to her death.