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Quarantine lifted for foreign tourists in Tibet as A/H1N1 test proves negative (05/20/09)


XIGAZE, Tibet, May 20 (Xinhua) -- Tibet Autonomous Region lifted the quarantine on a foreign tourist group Wednesday as one of its members, previously suspected of having A/H1N1 influenza, was confirmed to have just an "seasonal flu", said a senior official.

Dekyi, vice chairwoman of the regional government of Tibet, told Xinhua that the quarantine ended at about 10:40 a.m. after tests conducted by the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention showed the 42-year-old Italian woman was A/H1N1 negative and infected with A/H3N2 virus, a "seasonal flu".

Body temperature of the Italian tourist was 37.5 degrees Celsius Wednesday and her soar throat symptom alleviated, the ministry said in a circular Wednesday.

Dawa Doje, general manager of Tibet Nyiwel Travel Corporation Int'l, the travel service provider, said his company organizes tour groups to Tibet from Katmandu of Nepal every Tuesday and Saturday.

Members on Saturday's tour group were from 12 countries including the United States, Germany, France, U.K., Italy, Denmark, Japan, Ukraine, Australia and Singapore.

The Italian tourist, whose name was not disclosed, was found to have a fever of 38.5 degrees Celsius and symptoms of a sore throat, stuffy nose and sweating at entry into Zham town, Xigaze, Saturday and was then sent to the hospital. The 23 other tourists remained under medical observation in Caiyuan Hotel since then.

Monday's tests carried out by Tibet's Center for Disease Control and Prevention showed the Italian was suspected of having A/H1N1 flu, leading to the group quarantine until earlier Wednesday when a panel of six experts dispatched by Chinese health ministry declared the group was free of potential swine flu infection danger after having double-checked the case. The medical team was leaving Zham, bordering Nepal, for Lhasa.

Jessical Ricci, an American tourist, said she was very nervous at the first, but very happy now as the tour could continue in Tibet.

Another tourist from Ukraine who only identified him as Vlad, expressed his gratitude to the Chinese government and the hotel staff for their service during the quarantine period.

"The food and lodging was good, and the waiters and waitresses in the hotel were very kind," said Vlad.

Members of the group jointly bought a DVD player and sent it as a gift to Tenzin Dorje, a waiter in the hotel.

The hotel staff presented Hada, a white long silk scarf considered as a token of blessing, to the tourists after the quarantine was lifted.

Chodrak, the Tibetan tour guide, said members on the international tour group voiced support of Chinese Government's quarantine measures and considered these measures as normal.

"The overseas tourists also expressed hope that the foreign affairs departments could prolong their stay in Tibet as a way to make up for a loss of three days after being held up in Zham towns," said the Tibetan tour guide, "we have passed on their opinion to concerned departments in Tibet."

The tourist group was getting ready for their planned journey in Tibet. They left in six jeeps shortly after the quarantine was called off Wednesday and were heading for Xigaze City, said Dawa Doje, the general manager.

Dawa Doje confirmed upon finishing their visits in Lhasa, 19 members of the tour group would return to Katmandu, the rest five would continue their travel to other interior areas of the Chinese mainland.

The health bureau of Tibet has sent masks, breathing machines and other medical materials to Zham for future disease control efforts, said Liu Weihua, director with the disease control department under the bureau.



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