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Scientists review SARS

Scientists brought together by the World Health Organization to review the epidemiologic data on SARS. Existing public health measures have been effective in containing the disease in many countries and should be worked eventually in China and Taiwan, where the disease is now concentrated. Crucial measures are taken to control the chain of person-to-person transmission of the SARS virus like detection and treatment of suspected cases as soon// as they are identified and then quarantining their contacts. Timely public information and alerts to travelers entering other such effected countries. The two-day meeting, which took place in Geneva was joined by scientists from around the world by videoconference, which was of "great hope and celebration that the measures are working," said Dr.Michael J. Ryan, an official of the health agency. "There is no evidence that animals or insects are spreading SARS,(Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) Nor is there any sign that infected individuals are spreading the virus before they become ill" was the openion of participants.. One participant, Dr. Margaret Chan, Hong Kong's health director, said findings from a study to be issued this coming week reinforced the importance of people seeking early medical attention. Detecting and isolating patients early in the course of their infection and quarantining their contacts has had a huge effect on slowing the spread of the outbreak, Dr. Chan said. Her department conducted the study with researchers from Imperial College in London. But Dr.Chan also said the recommended public health measures need to be kept in place at least another year in any area where transmission seemed to have stopped to be sure that the virus was not hiding somewhere, ready to strike again. An earlier study from Imperial College in London suggested that the period from exposure to the SARS virus to the onset of symptoms might be about four days longer than the current upper limit of 10 days. The consensus of the participants was that the 10-day incubation period was correct but that epidemiologists needed to further study few cases that exceeded that limit. Information at the meeting affirmed that the principal way of spread of SARS is by droplets dispersed in coughs and sneezes among people with close contact with an infected individual. Some evidence suggested that contaminated feces and urine could contribute to the spread of SARS if they became dispersed in droplets in the air. But that route is not a major means of spreading SARS, Dr. Ryan said by telephone in a news conference after the meeting in Geneva. The W.H.O. has received wide praise for organizing teams of laboratory scientists, epidemiologists and health officials from around the world immediately after it declared SARS a global health risk on March 12. The teams quickly identified the virus that W.H.O. believes causes SARS and the ways it can be spread. Yesterday, the agency added China's Hebei Province to the agency's list of places to which people without urgent business should avoid traveling. The other areas are Taiwan, Hong Kong and the following areas in China: Beijing, Tianjin, Inner Mongolia and Shanxi and Guangdong Provinces.

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