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Turnips Touted as SARS Cure in Beijing

BEIJING (Reuters) - A turnip a day keeps the SARS virus away, or so many in China's capital believe.

Turnip prices have jumped in Beijing after the vegetable was touted as a key ingredient in a potion to fight the deadly virus that causes severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS, peddlers said.

Carrots, leeks, garlic and ginger have leapt in popularity, too, after the popular Star Daily tabloid published a recipe for fighting SARS last week that included those ingredients along with turnips.

"A lot of people want turnips," said vegetable vendor Hu Benqiang, adding that he expected prices to keep rising.

Long, white turnips are already selling for three yuan per kilogram (kg) at one neighborhood market, up from 2.40 yuan (10 pence) per kg last week, said Hu. Wholesale prices have shot up more than 30 percent.

Chinese citizens have been trying antibiotics, cold medicines and home remedies such as boiling vinegar and eating whole cloves of raw garlic to fight SARS. One official health newspaper recommended dead silkworms and cicada skins as part of another recipe.

Health experts say there is no known cure for SARS, which has infected more than 3,300 people and killed at least 144 -- nearly half of them in China -- since it emerged in China's southern province of Guangdong in November.


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