SARS Added to HHS List of Public Health Threats

Health authorities at the federal level are proposing to add severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) to the list of agents and toxins which the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has designated as posing a threat to public health.

The notice for this proposed federal rule-making appeared in the Federal Register dated July 13, 2009 (Volume 74, Number 132). The summary is as follows: “The biological agents and toxins listed in Sec.  73.3 of Title  42 of the Code of Federal Regulations have been determined by the  Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to have the potential to pose a severe threat to public  health and safety. We are now proposing to add SARS-associated  coronavirus (SARS-CoV) to the list of HHS select agents and toxins. We  are proposing this action because (1) SARS-CoV can cause significant  mortality, especially in the elderly; (2) the virus has the capability of easily being transmitted from human to human; (3) there is currently  no vaccine or antiviral approved for the prevention or treatment of  infections caused by the SARS-CoV virus; and (4) it has been documented  that the virus may persist in the environment.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that the addition to the list is necessary because SARS is transmitted easily, it has no known treatment currently, and it has demonstrable persistence in the environment.