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WHO suggests China strengthen surveillance to block SARS outbreak
( 2003-10-21 16:35) (Xinhua)

A World Health Organization (WHO) representative on Tuesday suggested China strengthen surveillance and carry on basic control work such as early isolation to prevent another outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS).

Dr. Henk Bekedam, the resident WHO representative in China, told Xinhua that China made a strong commitment to reinforce its surveillance system and has been working hard with "quite good" results achieved.

In the first half of this year, SARS epidemic struck China and some other nations. The mysterious disease affected a total of 8, 437 people worldwide, killing 348 on the Chinese mainland and 813 worldwide by July 11, according to the WHO.

The Chinese mainland, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Canada and Singapore were the main victimized areas.

"We don't know whether SARS will return this winter," Dr. Bekedam said, noting that good surveillance, early isolation of SARS patients and early contact tracing could stem the contagious disease from another major breakout.

Dr. Bekedam suggested China intensify monitoring in south China, where the first SARS case had been reported, on the laboratories which contained the SARS virus and on those having close contact with wildlife.

The WHO official cited wild animals and laboratories without adequate safeguard measures as two triggers for the possible recurrence of SARS.

The most recent SARS case was reported in September by Singapore, two months after the UN agency announced the virus was contained worldwide. The WHO said the patient was infected in an unsafe laboratory.

"The origin of the SARS virus is still not known definitively and we need a few more years and to do a lot of research," Dr. Bekedam said.

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