Secretary Thompson, Chinese Health Minister Vow to Cooperate on SARS

U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy G. Thompson said the minister of health of the People’s Republic of China agreed today to increase cooperation with the United States and global health officials to combat and learn more about the spread and origin of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). In a 45-minute telephone conversation with Health Minister Zhang Wenkang, M.D., Secretary Thompson said the United States and HHS are “truly committed to this being a collaborative effort with China.”From the U.S. Dept. of Helatth and Human Services:
Secretary Thompson, Chinese Health Minister Vow to Cooperate on SARS

Secretary Tommy G. Thompson said the minister of health of the People’s Republic of China agreed today to increase cooperation with the United States and global health officials to combat and learn more about the spread and origin of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).

In a 45-minute telephone conversation with Health Minister Zhang Wenkang, M.D., Secretary Thompson said the United States and HHS are “truly committed to this being a collaborative effort with China.”

“The minister of health was very cooperative,” Secretary Thompson said. “We’re going to continue talking, and he wants to do more with the Department of Health and Human Services. It is important that we be as open and collaborative as possible in finding solutions to this difficult problem. By working closely together, scientists and public health experts throughout the world will be in a stronger position to resolve this global outbreak.”

Southern China is where the largest number of cases have been reported and is believed to be the origin of SARS, a contagious respiratory illness that has recently been reported in Asia, North America and Europe. Symptoms include coughing, fever and shortness of breath. Worldwide, more than 2,300 cases and 84 deaths have been reported, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

Cases of SARS have been reported primarily among people who have had direct close contact with an infected person, such as those who live with a SARS patient and health care workers.

HHS’ Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is working closely with WHO and other partners as part of a global collaboration to address the SARS outbreak. For its part in this international effort, CDC has committed more than 160 infectious disease experts and support staff to work on the SARS response; deployed medical officers, epidemiologists, and other specialists around the world, including China; provided ongoing assistance to state and local health departments in investigating possible cases of SARS in the United States; and conducted extensive laboratory testing of clinical specimens from SARS patients to identify the cause of the disease.

Minister Zhang told Secretary Thompson that he was pleased that U.S. officials are so concerned about SARS. According to the minister, the epidemic peaked in China in late February and the Chinese government is working for “total control and effective management of this disease.” The Chinese government also has urged its citizens to work to prevent the spread of SARS, the minister said.

“Our work on the SARS outbreak is one of the department’s top priorities,” Secretary Thompson said. “We will continue to work diligently at home and abroad to provide the public with the medical protection they need to combat this disease. I welcome Minister Zhang’s pledged cooperation and look forward to working with his country to learn more about SARS.”

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