International Carrier Says SARS Cannot be Transmitted Via Parcels or Postal Service

LONDON -- -- Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) cannot be contracted from handling letters or postal packages sent from the world's affected regions.

Chronopost International Air Express, which is the global express parcel service of United Kingdom-based parcel couriers, Parceline and Interlink Express, commissioned independent medical advice to reassure its customers and employees.

Professor Francios Bricaire, head of infectious diseases at La Pitie-Salpetriere Hospital in Paris, was specifically asked about the risk of getting infected by the virus from paper or cardboard.

"Fortunately this virus is much too fragile to survive more than a few hours on inert materials and so there is no risk of infection from handling a letter or postal package from the infected areas," Bricaire said. "People handling such packages need take no special precautions."

Bricaire described the symptoms of the illness as a temperature over 38 degrees Centigrade with coughing and shortness of breath. He said people who do not have these symptoms cannot transmit the virus.

Nigel Brett of Chronopost International said, "We take our responsibility to our customers and employees very seriously and felt it was our duty to seek expert medical advice to reassure them."

Chronopost International delivers air express parcels and documents to 220 countries worldwide.

The first cases of SARS appeared in China's Canton province. It is a viral infection affecting the respiratory system. It is produced by a known species of virus whose effects are benign although little research has been conducted on it. It is considered to have evolved into a more serious version that can cause acute respiratory difficulties and even death. It is transmitted by close contact with those suffering from the illness and surgical masks must be worn.

Source: Parceline and Interlink Express