Survey: 40 per cent of HK, China students believed they had SARS
TUE June 10 2003 03:01:36 ET

Drudge Report

Hong Kong (dpa) - Forty per cent of university students in surveyed in Hong Kong and China believed they contracted SARS as panic over the virus swept the region, according to a survey Tuesday.

Of 800 students interviewed by researchers at Hong Kong's Chinese University, four out of 10 said they were convinced at one stage or another that they had contracted the virus.

A majority of those questioned said they regarded SARS as the number one threat in the coming year, according to Professor Jia Jian-min, from the university's department of marketing which carried out the survey.

In reality, relatively few young people have been struck down by the virus and the youngest recorded death in Hong Kong has been a 28-year-old man. Most victims have been older patients with existing medical conditions.

Professor Jia said it was ``natural'' for students to have overestimated the risks of SARS because of the uncertainty surrounding the disease.

``This is a new disease,'' he said. ``People don't have enough knowledge and people do worry about uncertainties.''

Asked what they thought of first when the word SARS was spoken, students in Hong Kong said ``face masks'' while students in mainland China said ``death''. Face masks, at one stage worn by most people in Hong Kong, became synonymous with the outbreak in the territory.

More than 5,300 people in mainland China and more than 1,750 people in Hong Kong have been infected with SARS. A total of 288 Hong Kong people have died while 340 have died in mainland China.