Lessons from SARS May Help Prepare for Bird Flu

Lessons learned from SARS epidemics in China may help healthcare professionals prepare for new epidemics, such as human avian flu, say experts in this weeks British Medical Journal.

Mainland China experienced three outbreaks of SARS between November 2002 and May 2004. The first outbreak resulted in a pandemic and caused huge financial loss and social panic, but rigorous control policies prevented further pandemics. Such efforts mean that SARS is currently under control. But what have we learned and how can this help us tackle new epidemics in the future?

Lessons learned include being honest with the public about what is happening, ensuring close collaboration between laboratory workers and health professionals, involving health professionals in developing official policies, and adhering to strict scientific regulations.

So how can we do better next time? SARS has not been eradicated, and humans remain vulnerable to emerging infectious diseases like bird flu, say the authors. As we face up to the threat of future pandemics, we can take encouragement from the fact that many of the uncertainties that arose during the SARS outbreak were resolved over time.

Future strategies should focus on close collaboration between health professionals to contain emergent infections and constant consultation to develop appropriate official policies. An international monitoring network for the early alerting of infectious diseases is also needed. Lessons taught by SARS have given us a new outlook on a devastating human health crisis, and have important implications worldwide, the authors of an article in the British Medical Journal write. What has happened with the spread of the SARS virus must not be allowed to happen again with H5N1. Incessant efforts are needed to improve our preparedness, they conclude.

Reference: What we have learnt from SARS epidemics in China? British Medical Journal. Vol. 333, pp 389-91.

Source: British Medical Journal

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