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SARS Under Control in Vietnam, says WHO - 2003-04-24

The World Health Organization says Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome is under control in Vietnam. WHO also says its warning on travel to Toronto is justified.

The World Health Organization's coordinator for its global outbreak and alert network, Dr. Julie Hall, says SARS has been brought under control in Vietnam. She says there have been no new cases reported there for 10 days. "The disease has been brought under control because of the joint work between WHO and the immense work that has been going on with the Ministry of Health in Vietnam," she said. "We have found that very aggressive hospital infection control measures, the early detection of cases, making sure that we have a good surveillance system in place to detect cases, the early detection of cases and the early isolation of cases in fully equipped and well-trained units in the hospitals has brought this outbreak in Vietnam under control."

Dr. Hall says a key step to tackling SARS is the early detection and isolation of cases.

SARS is a new illness characterized by high fever, a dry cough and difficulty in breathing. It has killed more than 250 people around the world.

Although most victims survive, health officials say, the mortality rate has risen from four to between five and six percent, and there is no known cure.

The World Health Organization says, in China, more than 800 cases have been reported in the Beijing area. It says daily risk assessments are made on Beijing, as well as in Shanxi and Guangdong provinces, where high levels and risk of transmitting SARS have been found. It says the agency is working closely with Chinese authorities to try to bring the outbreaks under control.

Dr. Hall argues that global cooperation is necessary to put the right control measures in place to contain the disease. She cited SARS cases that had been exported from Toronto, Canada's business capital, as one reason why the WHO has issued a warning against travel there. She says daily assessments are also being made there. "We have spent a considerable amount of time investigating all the exported cases from Canada, and ensuring that the information is up-to-date," said Julie Hall. "The cases that were exported from Toronto to the United States and to Australia have been isolated, and there is no further spread or clusters associated with those. However, and very importantly, the case that was exported from Toronto to the Philippines, there is a potential cluster, certainly one probable case associated with that, and quite a considerable number of cases, 60 cases, that are under observation."

Canada has reported 267 suspected or probable SARS cases with 16 deaths. The World Health Organization says any SARS travel advisory it issues must remain in place for three weeks, which it describes as two full incubation periods for the disease.