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WHO Lists Reasons for Optimism Over SARS Resurgence

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GENEVA, June 27 (AFP) - A future upsurge in the deadly SARS virus would likely have a "milder" global impact because of precautionary steps already taken, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said on Friday.

"Some people ask what happens if SARS comes back, either in a couple of months or if it is seasonal, which we don't know, in several months time," WHO spokeswoman Christine McNab said.

"Overall WHO has good reason to believe that if SARS did resurface later this year for example, then the global impact would be milder," she told reporters.

The Geneva-based UN health agency said on its website that the question of whether Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, or SARS, will resurface "must remain open pending" better understanding of the circumstances that allowed the new disease to emerge.

WHO has now lifted all its travel advisories against non-essential travel to regions hit by the pneumonia-like disease.

Only the Canadian city of Toronto and Taiwan still feature on the list of areas with recent local transmission where WHO recommends exit screening for international travellers leaving the area.

The WHO lists five reasons to be optimistic on the prospects of swiftly bringing any possible future resurgence of SARS under control.

Health systems have shown that they can quickly go onto high alert and the most affected areas of Hong Kong and Singapore plan to maintain precautions against SARS until at least the end of the year, McNab said.

She added that the steps needed -- detection, isolation and disinfection -- were now well known and were simple.

"We also know that the control measures used, even if they were centuries-old, in the middle-age even, to control plague and other diseases, continue to work," McNab said.

Intensive research is now underway on the virus as well as to find a quick and reliable diagnostic test, while WHO has also decided to step up its ability to react to this kind of epidemic, she added.

"Most importantly perhaps SARS has ...demonstrated that is is in no-one's interest to not report cases as quickly as possible," McNab said.



COPYRIGHT 2003 Agence France-Presse. All rights reserved.

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