- SARS ETIOLOGY
- A ProMED-mail post
- ProMED-mail is a program of the
- International Society for Infectious Diseases
- Date: 21 Aug 2003
- From: ProMED-mail <email@example.com>
- Source: ProLog [edited]
- A SARS-like virus has been found in a broad range of
animals, stretching from snakes and birds to mammals, a medical group said
Thursday after returning from the epicenter of the virus in south China.
- The 14 United Nations and Chinese experts visited farms
and markets in Guangdong province in search of a possible animal carrier
of the virus, and were astounded to see how many different species were
infected. "What is surprising is we got positive results from mammals,
from birds and from reptiles," said Francois Moutou, a French expert
on epidemic disease. "This is very strange, because usually we don't
find viruses ... affecting so many [different] animals," he told a
briefing in Beijing.
- After a week-long trip to Guangdong, where the atypical
pneumonia erupted late in 2002, the search for an animal carrier remains
a "work in progress," according to health officials.
- One of the main findings by the expert group was the
realization that finding the origin and nature of Severe Acute Respiratory
Syndrome (SARS) may be a much more complex task than initially hoped.
- "There may be many animals that are capable of being
infected, but they might not be capable of transmitting the virus to people,"
Hume E. Field, an expert from Australia's Animal Research Institute, told
the briefing. The researchers warned that detecting the source of the
disease might take years, which means measures to curb further transmission
must be undertaken before it is fully understood. "Obviously we can't
wait until we've got the whole jigsaw together before action is taken,"
said Field. "So really we have to look at the best information we've
got at the time in terms of risk and respond according to that."
- Curbing further threats from SARS could result in restrictions
on consumption of certain types of wildlife known to be infected, despite
inconclusive data on whether the species is capable of transmitting the
sometimes-fatal illness to humans, he said.
- After SARS emerged in Guangdong province in 2002, it
quickly spread to become a global menace, leaving more than 800 dead from
8000 infections in 32 countries. Some 349 of the fatalities and 5327 of
the infections were recorded in China. Although China has formally declared
victory over SARS and the last patients have been discharged from hospital,
many in the world's most populous country remain wary that the epidemic
could bounce back. And even if the world has not seen the reemergence
of SARS by New Year 2004, it does not mean the danger is entirely over,
experts warned. "We need to recognize that if it doesn't return this
year, that doesn't mean it will never return," Field told the briefing.
- The World Health Organization (WHO) said Thursday it
would train thousands of medical workers in China, as fears linger that
SARS could strike again this year once cold weather sets in. The training
program is meant to better equip health workers to prevent infectious diseases
from spreading in hospitals, said Alan Schnur, a WHO communicable diseases
expert. The training program will begin in Beijing, where 193 people died
from the epidemic earlier in 2003, and will gradually be expanded to other
parts of China.
- At the height of the SARS outbreak, many people in China
were scared of going to hospitals because of fears -- in some cases well-founded
-- that sub-standard facilities made them breeding-grounds for the virus.
- The WHO could not conclusively rule out a SARS reappearance
in late autumn as temperatures start plunging, and stressed steps should
be taken to prevent any potential outbreak. "Whether or not SARS returns,
China must have a strong surveillance network already in place," said
Henk Bekedam, the WHO's China representative.
- Date: 21 Aug 2003
- From: ProMED-mail <firstname.lastname@example.org>
- Source: WHO SARS website [edited]
- WHO Representative Office in China 21 Aug 2003
- Joint mission on SARS animal reservoir and necessary
- A joint team of specialists from the Chinese government,
the World Health Organization, and the United Nations Food and Agriculture
Organization (FAO), in China to investigate the animal reservoir of the
SARS coronavirus, has issued a series of recommendations and actions necessary
not only to identify the disease's animal reservoir, but to contain any
- "We did not set out this time to find the animal
reservoir for SARS, but to methodically piece together the jigsaw puzzle
of this disease," says WHO's Dr Pierre Formenty, a zoonotic disease
specialist and joint leader of the mission. "The fight against SARS
is not over. Finding its origin will most likely take years," says
Dr Formenty, "Right now, the need for information is of such urgency
that even limited information will be helpful in taking the right control
measures. Because SARS is a global threat, international collaboration
is essential if we are to detect and rapidly contain any new outbreaks."
- Among the measures recommended by the joint team of specialists
include the strengthening of regulations in the farming, trading, and consumption
of wildlife. More serological monitoring of the SARS coronavirus are needed
both in animals and humans, as well as continued in-depth human studies
of SARS index cases. Determining how SARS first breached the species barrier
is crucial to controlling it.
- While it is still unknown whether SARS will return, WHO
is continuing to work closely with the Chinese government to design and
implement a strategy using hospitals as early detection centers of SARS.
WHO is also collaborating with the Chinese Ministry of Health to strengthen
infection control in health care settings. A series of training seminars
on SARS infection control procedures for health care workers is scheduled
for September 2003 in Beijing and Changsha.
- Following a meeting today with senior officials from
the Ministry of Science and Technology, Ministry of Agriculture, Ministry
of Health, and the Ministry of Forestry, in which the Chinese government
recognized the need for increased research co-ordination, WHO is optimistic
about future prospects for collaboration.
- "Whether or not SARS returns, China must have a
strong surveillance network already in place," says Dr Henk Bekedam,
WHO's China Representative. "China has a unique opportunity to contribute
to the international understanding of this disease. Investing now in this
safety net may be the key to successfully combating SARS."
- Patricia A. Doyle, PhD
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