WHO targets SARS "Super Spreaders"
« on: Apr 6th, 2003, 11:28am »
WHO targets SARS 'super spreaders'
Sunday, April 6, 2003 Posted: 9:11 AM EDT (1311 GMT)
GUANGZHOU, China -- As the death toll from SARS mounts, the World Health Organization says the key to controlling the mystery disease could lie in identifying highly infectious people, known as "super spreaders".
A WHO team is visiting hospitals and talking with experts in the southern Chinese province of Guangdong, which borders Hong Kong, where the epidemic of severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS, is thought to have originated.
The four-member team is most interested in "the phenomenon of 'super spreaders' -- people who seem to spread their disease to a lot of other people," Associated Press reports WHO team leader Dr Robert Breiman saying.
Figuring out why they are so infectious "may lead to public health approaches that will be very effective for control," he said.
Aside from health care workers who caught SARS from patients, those infected have little in common, Breiman said.
Guangdong accounts for 40 of the 49 deaths reported in China with 1,100 people in the province reported to have the disease out of a total of 1,220 for China.
In neighboring Hong Kong, the death toll rose to 22 after two more people died Sunday. As many as 842 people in the former British colony have now contracted the illness, with 107 recovering so far.
Worldwide, the number of SARS cases continues to climb with over 2,400 infections and 89 deaths reported from 18 countries, WHO says.
The 2,416 cases now reported represent an increase of 63 cases (2.7 percent) and five deaths (6.0 percent) in a 24 hour period.
Meanwhile, a vaccine is being developed by the United State's National Institutes of Health. Research is focusing on a suspected link between SARS and the coronavirus, which causes the common cold, according to The Associated Press news agency.
On Friday, U.S. President George W. Bush issued an executive order adding SARS to the list of communicable diseases for which a person can be quarantined. This is the first new disease to be added to the list in two decades. (Quarantine order)
Amid mounting global criticism China has apologized for its slow reporting on the outbreak.
In an effort to facilitate faster responses, Chinese Vice Premier Wu Yi announced "the immediate establishment of a national medical emergency mechanism, with emphasis placed on a public health information and an early warning reporting mechanism," the Beijing Youth Daily reported on Saturday.
It was only in the last few days that the Chinese government allowed WHO officials to visit Guangzhou, the main city in Guangdong.
In other developments:
• Indonesia has temporarily suspended sending workers to the Asia-Pacific region in the wake of SARS after it declared the disease a national epidemic last week. ( Indonesian move )
• Australia will declare SARS a quarantinable disease on Monday, giving authorities the power to detain anyone they suspect of carrying the disease.
• Malaysia has recorded its first death that may be linked to SARS.
• Hong Kong airport officials say airlines have canceled 18 percent of flights into and out of the territory after a WHO warning.
• Malaysian health authorities threaten jail terms of up to two years for passengers who fail to declare if they have flu-like symptoms.