A Guangdong professor at the centre of the global spread of Sars told Hong Kong doctors in February he was not suffering from the atypical pneumonia that was making hundreds of people sick in southern China at the time, a Legco hearing heard yesterday. On the first day of the select committee inquiry on the handling of the Sars outbreak that killed 299 people in Hong Kong, Kwong Wah Hospital doctors and nurses were asked to account for the management of so-called 'patient zero', Liu Jianlun. Liu infected at least 13 tourists staying at the Metropole Hotel in Mongkok. Globally, the outbreak eventually claimed the lives of 774 of the 8,098 who fell ill. Yesterday's five-hour hearing did not produce any controversy, as was widely anticipated. Instead, hospital staff were praised for their handling of Liu's case. Liu, a kidney specialist, arrived in Hong Kong on February 21 to attend a wedding banquet, staying overnight at the Metropole. The next day he sought treatment at Kwong Wah's accident and emergency department for fever, shortness of breath and palpitations. Resident doctor Chow Kin-wa said Liu told him he had been suffering from fever and shortness of breath for the previous four days on the mainland. He had recently had pneumonia, which he self-treated with antibiotics. Wu Chun-wah, a consultant who reassessed the mainland professor, said: '[Liu] added that he had already recovered and was not suffering 'that kind of thing'. 'It was our understanding that the patient was telling us that he was not suffering the type of atypical pneumonia recently reported in China.' Dr Wu said that during a physical examination he heard crackling sounds in both of Liu's lungs, and his chest X-rays revealed a 'ground-glass appearance'. Suspecting a lung infection, Dr Wu admitted Liu to the intensive care unit, where he died on March 4. The Hospital Authority's head office was notified. The hospital's chief executive, Luk Che-chung, said he believed Liu thought he was not harbouring a virulent disease, otherwise he would not have been out dining with his relatives the previous day.