Seven doctors and medical workers from Hong Kong and Taiwan working at hospitals treating SARS patients have arrived in Japan recently, the health ministry reported Tuesday.

The doctors and medical workers were in good health and reportedly told officials at quarantine stations they have had no contact with severe acute respiratory syndrome patients, the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry said.

Ministry officials said they intend to repeat, through diplomatic missions abroad, requests to countries and territories hit by SARS that people who may have had contact with SARS patients refrain from visiting Japan.

The health ministry said five of the seven were from Hong Kong and two from Taiwan.

In questionnaires submitted at quarantine stations on arrival in Japan, the doctors and medical workers said that within 10 days of their arrival here they had been working in medical facilities treating people suspected of being infected with SARS.

They said they came to Japan for academic meetings, business discussions and sightseeing. Two have left Japan, but the rest are still in the country.

The health ministry has asked the remaining five to report on their health twice a day, the officials said.

The two from Taiwan have hospital certificates saying they have had no contact with SARS patients, they said.

No suspect animals

A survey has found that no masked palm civets, raccoon dogs or ferret badgers have been imported from China since January 2001, health ministry officials said Tuesday. These wild animals are suspected of carrying viruses tied to SARS.

The officials said the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry based its findings on a survey conducted on its behalf by a nationwide group of animal importers and on research into Finance Ministry trade statistics.

But the ministry suspects the animals, along with other, similar animals, may have found their way into Japan and is asking the Environment Ministry to check pet shops.

The ministry has been surveying import records since the World Health Organization said last month that research teams in China and Hong Kong found viruses related to severe acute respiratory syndrome in the three species, which are sold for human consumption at markets throughout southern China.

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