The SARS virus is contagious enough to cause a very large epidemic if left unchecked, but could nonetheless be controlled with rigorous public health measures, two research teams report. These results are being released today by the journal Science, published by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).
Radiologists have used computed tomography (CT), a diagnostic imaging procedure that uses special x-ray equipment to obtain cross-sectional pictures of the body, to better define severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS). In a study published online May 8, 2003 at www.rsna.organd in the August 2003 issue of the journal Radiology, Anil T. Ahuja, M.D., and a team of physicians from Hong Kong’s Prince of Wales Hospital analyzed the CT images of 73 patients with symptoms and signs suggestive of SARS. The patients were hospitalized from March 11, 2003 to April 2, 2003 during an outbreak of atypical pneumonia at Prince of Wales Hospital.
HHS Secretary Tommy G. Thompson today announced agreement with Chinese Vice Premier and Health Minister Wu Yi to increase collaboration with China toward improved detection and management of infectious diseases. The agreement stems from President Bush’s pledge to Chinese President Hu Jintao to provide resources necessary to help stem the SARS epidemic in China.
An international team of researchers has estimated that the fatality rate for SARS is considerably higher than some early estimates. According to a paper published online today in The Lancet, which examines data from the first nine weeks of Hong Kong’s epidemic, the case fatality rate, among those admitted to hospital, in patients 60 years of age and older is estimated to be far higher (43.3%, 95% confidence interval 35.2 to 52.4%) than those below 60 (13.2%, 95% confidence interval 9.8 to 16.8%).
At about 4 a.m. this morning, scientists at the BC Cancer Agency’s Canada’s Michael Smith Genome Sciences Centre completed the first publicly available draft sequence for a coronavirus implicated in SARS. “This is a huge step forward in the fight to control the spread of SARS,” says Dr. Caroline Astell, projects leader at the Genome Sciences Centre. Since receiving 1 millionth of a gram of purified viral genetic material from Dr. Frank Plummer at the National Microbiology Lab in Winnipeg, relayed by the BC Centre for Disease Control, scientists at the Genome Sciences Centre have worked around the clock to complete the sequence, using both molecular techniques and state-of-the-art laboratory automation.
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.”
WHO has today stepped up several activities aimed at strengthening the international response to the recent emergence of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). SARS is an infectious disease of unknown etiology characterized by atypical pneumonia. The disease is spread from person to person but only through close contact with a case. To date, almost all reported cases have occurred in health workers involved in the direct care of reported cases or in close contacts, such as family members. There is no evidence to date that the disease spreads though casual contact.