30 April 2004
SARS Reappears in China, U.N. Health Authorities Report
U.S. health agencies engaged in global disease
By Charlene Porter
Washington File Staff Writer
Washington --Five confirmed cases of severe acute respiratory
syndrome (SARS) have been reported by Chinese authorities since
April 22, and four more people under treatment for flu-like symptoms
are being tested as suspected cases. One death has been reported
so far, according to an update released by the World Health Organization
(WHO) April 30.
The source of this round of cases is suspected to be Beijing's
National Institute of Virology where studies using live SARS coronavirus
were under way, according to the WHO statement. A female post-graduate
student who worked at the facility in March developed symptoms.
All the successive cases appear to be linked back to her. The one
fatality was her 53-year-old mother, WHO reports.
The institute has been closed, and its 200 employees are under
medical observation. In addition, 1000 more people who had close
contact with the infected persons are being monitored for the development
The patients still under treatment are being kept in isolation,
a lesson learned after the SARS outbreak of 2003, when the virus
revealed itself to be highly transmissible in health care settings
and took a disproportionately high toll among health care workers.
Recognizing that pattern, U.S. and international health care agencies
swiftly developed strict protocols to be followed regarding the
isolation of suspected patients and protective procedures to be
used by health care workers coming into contact with those patients.
Almost 8100 cases of SARS in 26 countries were reported in 2003
when the previously unknown respiratory disease swept out of Asia
and found its way to every continent.
Top U.S. health officials testified to Congress this week that
SARS demonstrates the threats to human health, the world economy,
and national security posed by newly emerging or re-emerging diseases
in a globalized world. In view of that reality, the director of
the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) explained
how her agency is collaborating with WHO and other international
health care agencies to develop global disease detection systems
that will ensure rapid response and containment.
Dr. Julie Gerberding said that CDC has 160 specialists deployed
around the world providing assistance to other agencies working
on disease detection and control. In addition, the agency has worked
to provide rapid information and assistance from its Atlanta, Georgia,
"[D]uring the SARS outbreak (of 2003), CDC was able to assemble
a panel of WHO, CDC and other global experts and communicate live
from a studio in Atlanta, Georgia to more than 2 million Chinese
clinicians," Gerberding said.
Medical research is another component of the U.S. contribution
to the global effort to counter SARS, according to National Institute
for Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) Director Anthony S.
"NIAID supports research to understand the epidemiology and biology
of the SARS virus and how it spreads, and to develop vaccines,
diagnostic tests and therapeutic agents to effectively address
any future SARS outbreaks," Fauci testified before a congressional
health subcommittee April 28.
Fauci said NIAID scientists and other teams receiving funds from
the U.S. government have had some recent successes in attempts
to develop a SARS vaccine. One study revealed how the mouse immune
system can develop antibodies capable of neutralizing the SARS
virus. A second study was able to spur an antibody response to
SARS in mice injected with a trial vaccine.