The World Health Organization says it has found evidence of the SARS virus at a restaurant in southern China.
The doctor, who led the WHO team, that discovered the evidence says samples taken from a Guangzhou restaurant revealed the SARS coronavirus in all the cages in which civet cats are kept.
Robert Breiman said the findings did not necessarily mean civet cats transmit SARS to humans. He said scientists have yet to determine exactly what role the weasel-like animals play in the process of transmitting the disease.
The restaurant, which serves civet on its menu, employed a 20-year-old waitress who was hospitalized about three weeks ago with symptoms of the deadly Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome. Doctors have yet to say the woman actually has SARS.
Provincial officials in Guangdong ordered the slaughter of all civet cats, except those in the wild. Wang Zhiqiong, deputy director of Guangdong health department said 3,903 animals had been killed. All were in markets, restaurants and farms.
Health officials fear a repeat of a global SARS epidemic that originated in southern China just over a year ago killing more than 770 people worldwide.
Information for this report is provided by AP and AFP.