Rumours of SARS spreading by SMS

Hong Kong - Authorities have arrested 13 people in southern China for spreading rumours about the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) epidemic through text messages using cellphone, it was reported on Wednesday.

The 13 were arrested in Guangdong province for spreading rumours, the China-backed Wen Wei Po daily said.

One of them was a jobless man in Shenzhen who was fined 200 yuan (about R170) and detained for 15 days while facing further criminal charges, the daily said.

Citing public security bureau officials, the paper said that on April 26 alone, about 2,13 million such messages were sent, claiming that SARS cases in China reached 10 000.

Each recipient was told to resend the messages to another 10 people.

China and Hong Kong have borne the brunt of the SARS outbreak, accounting for about 300 deaths from a global total of more than 350.

SARS is believed to have originated in southern China in November. - Sapa-AFP

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