Although the outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) in the Chinese province where the disease is believed to have originated appears to have been contained, there is still an urgent need to improve surveillance in rural districts of Guangdong, the United Nations lead health agency said in a report issued today.
A World Health Organization (WHO) team that visited Guangdong, currently the largest and oldest known outbreak, issued its official interim report to Chinese Government officials. The WHO experts said Guangdong might hold important clues about both the origins of the virus and measures for clinical management.
"The SARS reporting system established in Guangdong is an excellent model that all provinces should follow," the report says. "The Guangdong experience should be used to develop uniform standards throughout all provinces for preventing the spread of SARS in health care facilities."
Since early last week, the WHO team has assessed local conditions in an effort to strengthen the surveillance and control of SARS cases in Guangdong. The report says the outbreak in the province appears to have been contained, as reported cases of SARS decreased substantially throughout March and early this month from a peak in mid-February, though new cases continue to be reported daily.
The report also states that Guangdong's health care system has responded well with virtually all probable cases presenting at a provincial hospital rapidly detected and reported. There is however an urgent need to improve surveillance in rural areas to prevent new outbreaks.
Details of the provincial surveillance system and measures to control community and hospital infection are outlined in the report. It also gives a detailed review of patient management and of microbiological findings.
"Guangdong clinicians have cared for the largest number of patients in the world and their experience should be shared with the international community," the WHO report recommends.
Other priority actions recommended to contain SARS include the early recognition and treatment of cases as well as stringent infection control measures in hospitals and clinics. Meticulous investigation in the community and public awareness campaigns are also recommended.
As of yesterday, 2,671 SARS cases with 103 deaths have been reported from 17 countries.