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HONG KONG (AP) -- Chinese officials denied Thursday that they had hurried an American dying from a deadly respiratory disease across the border to Hong Kong to avoid the embarrassment of a foreigner's death in their country.
Health officials in the border city of Shenzhen said James Salisbury, a 52-year-old Utah instructor, was in a coma when he was taken by ambulance Wednesday to a Hong Kong hospital. The Hong Kong health secretary, Dr. Yeoh Eng-kiong, told reporters Thursday that Salisbury was dead on arrival, a victim of severe acute respiratory syndrome.
David Westbrook, a friend of Salisbury who drove behind the ambulance to Hong Kong, also said he showed no signs of life when he was put in the ambulance.
Westbrook said mainland doctors had given up hope of saving him and moved him so there would not be another death of a foreigner from SARS.
A provincial health official in Guangdong, the province where the first reported case of SARS occurred, disputed that.
"We wanted to keep him in Shenzhen, but at the request of his family, we moved him to Hong Kong, where he died," Zhong Nanshan, an epidemiologist at the Guangzhou Institute of Respiratory Diseases in Guangdong's capital, told reporters in Beijing.
But China has been accused of covering up information about SARS since the outbreak began in November in Guangdong.
Salisbury's 6-year-old son, Mickey, is hospitalized in Hong Kong where he is under observation for SARS, a family member said. He is being looked after by church friends of the family.
The boy's mother, who lives in Orem, Utah, is making plans to travel here to bring him home when he is well enough, said the child's half-sister, Michelle Salisbury.
The flu-like illness continues to spread in Hong Kong and the mainland. Officials on Thursday took still more steps to try to control it, imposing strict 10-day quarantines for about 150 households of people recently infected.
The territory had previously quarantined some 240 people from a hard-hit apartment building, but some of them were released late Wednesday.
Worldwide, the disease, believed to be caused by a virus that causes the common cold, has claimed 111 lives. More than 2,700 people are infected with it. The United States reports 154 suspected cases, but no deaths.
Other Asian governments invoked new precautions Thursday to contain the virus, whose symptoms include fever, aches, dry cough and shortness of breath.
Malaysia started denying visas to most Hong Kong people. Taiwan said medical staff would check the temperatures of all passengers arriving at Taipei's international airport and quarantine those with fever. Symptoms of SARS include fever, shortness of breath, coughing, chills and body aches.
Singapore announced a mandatory 10-day quarantine for guest workers arriving from affected countries, while keeping a closer eye on people under quarantine with cameras and wrist tags.
Southeast Asian finance ministers postponed a meeting in Manila planned for later this month because of SARS fears.
Thailand eased up a bit on Thursday, saying tourists arriving from countries affected by SARS are no longer required to wear masks, as a World Health Organization official praised the country's efforts to prevent the illness.
Mainland China and Hong Kong have reported the highest numbers of infections and deaths from the disease. Deaths also have been reported in Canada, Singapore, Vietnam, Thailand and Malaysia.
A brief statement from China's Health Ministry on Thursday raised the SARS death toll by two.
(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)