WHO to send experts to China for SARS probe
The World Health Organization (WHO) will send an expert team to China to assist China's Health Ministry to investigate into the cause of SARS cases reported in China recently, Bob Dietz, spokesman of WHO China Office said Sunday.
"At the request of the Chinese government, WHO will assemble a team of two or three experts in laboratory bio-safety issues... toinvestigate possible links between China's Institute of Virology in Beijing under the China's Center for Disease Control and Prevention, and the SARS cases reported recently in China," Dietz said.
"The WHO team will arrive in China within days," he said.
Since April 22, China has reported two diagnosed and six suspected SARS cases in east Anhui Province and Beijing.
Since the Anhui diagnosed SARS patient and one Beijing suspected SARS patient used to work in the same laboratory in the Institute of Virology, experts said it was possible that the epidemic may have been caused by laboratory infection.
Dietz said currently WHO still does not see a "significant" public health threat in China.
But he said the situation could change if effective transmission of the SARS coronavirus were to be seen within the general public through casual contact, including being in an elevator, sharing a taxi or from a waitress at a restaurant.
"So far, the people who have become infected have all been closely linked with the people who made them ill, including close relatives or some one in a hospital setting," he said.
Dietz said WHO believes the most important thing to do at present for China is to spot potential SARS cases as quickly as possible, actively isolate them and carry out thorough epidemiological investigation and monitoring.
"This is the method that worked last year at the height of the first round of SARS and remains our best tool for controlling the disease this time, too," he said.