SARS linked to sex disease Rachel Ellis in London 07apr03 A NEW scare surrounded the spread of the pneumonia virus sweeping the world after it was linked to a sexually transmitted disease. Doctors in China â the country worst hit by Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome â have found that the virus appears to be connected to chlamydia. The discovery suggests that those with the STD are more likely to develop or transmit SARS. "SARS is one virus acting with other things and in China it happens to be chlamydia," Chris Powell, of the World Health Organisation, said. In February this year, Queensland Health officials reported that chlamydia was the most commonly notified disease in the state, with the number of reported cases increasing by 60 per cent since 1997. Dr Robert Breiman, also of the WHO, said he feared people who already had chlamydia might be vulnerable to the flu-like bug and become highly contagious "super-spreaders". Health experts made the connection after an airborne form of chlamydia, which can leave women infertile, was found in the lungs of SARS victims. But the STD does not yet appear to be linked to SARS cases outside China. More than 2300 cases of SARS have been diagnosed in 19 countries over four continents and 89 people have died. US President George W. Bush followed the lead of governments in Asia and Canada by giving US health authorities the power to quarantine anyone infected with the disease. In China, where the government has been criticised for failing to notify the international community when SARS first hit in November, Vice-Premier Wu Yi promised to start releasing more information to the public, the official Xinhua News Agency reported. In China's southern Guangdong province, a WHO team met at Zhongshan University where experts have collected hundreds of specimens of blood, lung fluid and other materials from people who died of SARS and those who recovered, team leader Dr Robert Breiman said. WHO wants to compare the samples to determine whether those who died were killed by a combination of viruses or bacteria or just one strain, he said. Meanwhile, Singapore said the number of new infections in the city-state was dropping and people should resume their normal routines. The Government said it would begin reopening the country's schools in the coming week after shutting them last month due to the disease, which has killed six people and infected 103. However, parents will have to sign declarations saying their children are healthy, and students who have travelled outside Singapore will have their temperatures taken for 10 days after their return. In Hong Kong, hygiene workers collected rats and cockroaches for testing at the Amoy Gardens apartment complex, where at least 250 residents were infected. They hope the pests may hold a clue to how the disease was transmitted.