Global perspective Human stories

Senior UN health official welcomes Asian efforts to fight SARS

Senior UN health official welcomes Asian efforts to fight SARS

Dr. David Heymann
Stressing that early detection and protection were two simple strategies that can contain Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), a top United Nations health official today welcomed the “unprecedented efforts” made by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) against the new potentially deadly disease.

"Meetings of this level and magnitude to form a common strategy against a specific disease, show how serious countries are to become free of SARS," David Heymann, Executive Director of the World Health Organization (WHO) Communicable Diseases Cluster told Asian leaders gathered in Bangkok, Thailand.

The meeting included the heads of government of ASEAN – Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, The Philippines, Thailand, Myanmar, Brunei, Cambodia, Laos and Viet Nam, plus China, including Hong Kong. As of yesterday, there had been 5,050 probably cases of SARS, 321 of them fatal, in 26 countries, the vast majority in East Asia.

Mr. Heymann told the leaders that that there were two simple strategies that could contain and eventually stop SARS – detecting all cases and protecting those at risk of infection from these cases. He said countries needed to detect and treat SARS cases early while taking effective measures to protect the rest of the population.

He added that this was reflected in the procedures endorsed at the meeting, where countries agreed to standardize screening of all travellers, isolate and treat identified SARS cases, and, importantly, share accurate and timely information.