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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

SARS Deaths Hit One-Day High

HONG KONG -- The SARS crisis deepened Tuesday as Hong Kong reported nine more fatalities, pushing the global death toll past 150, and U.S. experts warned the just-revealed genetic code for the disease does not explain how it started or how to stop it.

As Asia struggled to beat back the spread of the virus, Canadian authorities announced they have identified a new cluster of cases among mourners who went to a victim's funeral.

The U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention said gene sequencing will help create accurate diagnostic tests and increases the chance that a drug or vaccine will be found to defeat the virus, but that could take weeks at best.

At least 153 people have died of severe acute respiratory syndrome, which has infected more than 3,000. Most victims have been in Asia.

The nine deaths in Hong Kong, its biggest one-day fatality increase since the SARS outbreak hit the territory last month, pushed its toll to 56. Four of the deaths were people in their 30s and 40s with no prior health problems, adding to fears that some fit patients are not responding to treatment.

Many of Hong Kong's other fatalities have been elderly people or patients suffering from chronic medical conditions.

In hardest-hit China, the World Health Organization said investigators were seeking permission Tuesday to visit military hospitals in Beijing that are rumored to hold unreported cases.

SARS is thought to have started in southern Guangdong province last November, but its extent in China only became known recently. Chinese officials have been accused of underreporting the crisis, which Premier Wen Jiabao last weekend described as "grave."

He ordered that passengers on airlines, trains and boats be screened, and on Tuesday state media said public facilities would be disinfected.

Mainland China has reported 64 deaths, Hong Kong 56, Canada 13 and Singapore 12, including two suspected fatalities. Vietnam has had five deaths, Thailand two and Malaysia one.

In Canada, health officials said they had linked 31 possible SARS cases, including members of a religious community and two physicians who attended the April 1 funeral of a victim of the pneumonia-like disease.

Dr. Sheela Basrur, the chief medical officer of health in Toronto, said some of the cases had previously been identified.

Toronto, Canada's largest city located 100 kilometers from the U.S. border, is the epicenter of the largest SARS outbreak outside of Asia.

Over the weekend Canadian researchers published the entire genetic sequence of the new type of coronavirus believed to cause SARS. The U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention released similar information Monday.

The center's director, Julie Gerberding, described the breakthrough as "unprecedented in the history of science. But it is not the magic bullet for dealing with SARS."

It does not provide simple answers to questions about the disease, including whether it came from animals.

The gene sequencing will help create accurate diagnostic tests and increases the chance that a drug or vaccine will be found to defeat the virus, but it is something that could take weeks or even months in some cases, she said.