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WHO To Issue New Guidelines to Prevent Spread of SARS - 2003-05-13


The World Health Organization will soon be issuing new guidelines to prevent SARS from spreading. WHO officials say increased surveillance of those suspected of having SARS will be a key part of the new guidelines.

World Health Organization officials say control measures that have been in place since mid-March have been very effective. They say they have allowed many countries to bring down the number of infections from this fatal disease.

However, WHO scientist Mark Salter said he fears progress in the fight against SARS is making some people complacent. And this, Mr. Salter said, could eventually put more people at risk.

"We cannot drop our vigilance no matter how much under control in certain countries you may think this infection has become. Because we know from the very outset that one individual with SARS can cause a significant number of further infections if they are not identified quite early and isolated quite early," he said. "So, at this time when things are coming under control, we need not to become complacent. If anything, we need to further tighten our vigilance to insure that every single case of SARS is detected as early as possible."

Mr. Salter said the new control measures, which will be issued Wednesday, will call for enhanced surveillance of SARS patients. He also said those suspected of being ill must be isolated quickly and nurses, doctors and other care givers must have all the protective equipment they need to remain healthy.

The WHO scientist said the guidelines are very basic and can be implemented by poor countries that do not have the financial resources or sophisticated health facilities of countries such as Singapore, Hong Kong or the United States.

"This is treating all patients who have symptoms that may possibly put them as category as an alert case until such a time as you have definitive evidence that you can exclude them. And, that is gowns, gloves, masks and goggles which are readily available in large numbers of places," Mr. Salter said. "Similarly, in terms of isolation facilities. While we go through a hierarchy and negative pressure rooms are the ideal circumstance to isolate individuals who have an infectious disease, we do know from experience that a simple hut with a roof can be used to isolate people."

Mr. Salter said the World Health Organization stands ready to help any member state that cannot afford to buy even the simplest SARS protective gear.