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WHO warns of fresh SARS epidemic, urges flu vaccination push

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GENEVA (AFX) - The World Health Organisation has warned of a possible new epidemic of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) in coming months, as winter takes hold in the northern hemisphere.

The Geneva-based WHO also called for a major worldwide vaccination campaign against flu -- whose initial symptoms are similar to those of SARS -- to make it easier to detect any new outbreak of the deadly pneumonia-like disease.

"While the human chain of SARS transmission has been interrupted, many experts are concerned that SARS might be a seasonal disease and return in the next few months, about a year after it first appeared in China," the UN health body warned in a statement.

The WHO said vaccinating against flu would not provide any direct protection against SARS, but "may reduce the number of pneumonia cases caused by influenza that might raise suspicions of SARS".

It added: "Decreasing the number of pneumonia cases, through influenza vaccination, can help in the early identification of a true SARS outbreak -- should the disease recur."

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