Three months after SARS began its spread out of southern China, it is clear that a country’s response to the epidemic can have a major impact on the percentage of infected people who die, according to epidemiologists at the University of California, Berkeley. An analysis accepted for August publication in the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases indicates that countries that quickly initiated control measures against SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) saw a slower spread and a lower fatality rate.
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.
As a result of ongoing assessments as to the nature of outbreaks of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), WHO is now recommending, as a measure of precaution, that people planning to travel to the following areas of China: Tianjin, Inner Mongolia, and Taipei in Taiwan province, consider postponing all but essential travel. This temporary advice will be reassessed regularly.
In the last few months, severe acute respiratory syndrome has infected thousands in Asia, traveled to various parts of the world and gained international attention. In April 2003, the disease was conclusively identified as a type of coronavirus unlike any other known human or animal virus in the Coronavirus family.
Sanjay Kapil, a Kansas State University associate professor of diagnostic medicine pathobiology, says human interference with domestic and wild animals could be a factor in the development of the disease.
Samples of the pathogens identified in severe acute respiratory syndrome look similar to coronaviruses found in animals. Because the sequences found in human samples are unique, the virus must have changed substantially when it transferred from animals to humans, Kapil said.
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.”
Defense Department personnel may make only mission-essential trips to China and Hong Kong because of the threat of severe acute respiratory syndrome, U.S. Pacific Command officials said today. “All Hong Kong port visits by U.S. Navy ships will be deferred until the restriction has been lifted,” Pacific Command spokeswoman Lt. Cmdr. Jensin Sommer said. The restriction is consistent with recommendations made by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The U.S. State Department has also issued a travel advisory citing the disease. The travel advisory includes China, Hong Kong, Singapore and Hanoi, Vietnam.
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.