News Video | Policy | GPs | Hospitals | Medical | Mental Health | Welfare | Search


SARS Update

Media Release

23 March 2003

SARS Update

A week after New Zealand's response to the threat of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome began, the World Health Organisation has announced a test may soon be available for the serious virus, the Ministry of Health says.

"International scientists have devised a basic test for the virus that causes SARS. A rapid and reliable diagnostic test is needed to assist clinicians for rapid confirmation of genuine cases and this is a significant step forward," Director of Public Health Dr Colin Tukuitonga said today.

Dr Tukuitonga said if required New Zealand will work with WHO to establish testing faclities in this country.

Latest reports from WHO say there have been 386 suspected or probable cases of SARS, identified in a variety of countries. There have been 11 deaths to date.

Hong Kong and Hanoi in Vietnam, continue to be the worst affected areas. Meanwhile a WHO team of experts is en route to China to investigate whether an outbreak of a SARS-like illness may be linked to the current SARS outbreak.

Dr Tukuitonga said according to WHO, the virus has been contained outside Asia, however New Zealand was maintaining its vigilence and still treating SARS as a very serious threat.

"In New Zealand, we still have no confirmed cases so we can be reasonably confident the virus has not entered this country. However, we are maintaining ongoing border surveillance and health care workers will manage any suspected cases with good infection control procedures ."

Dr Tukuitonga said the Ministry of Health has a national public health emergency plan to deal with an emerging issue such as SARS. The plan sets out roles and responsibilites of various groups and individuals, including DHBs, and involves continually monitoring information the Ministry receives.

The Ministry activated the plan last Monday and will continue to follow it as the situation necessitates.

To date the Ministry has: disseminated information to key agencies, District Health Boards, emergency deparments and infection control committees. disseminated diagnostic guidelines to GPs and other health care workers set up a 24-hour telephone line and a website for members of the public seeking advice on travel and other issues related to SARS. The number of the telephone line is 0800 800 80. The website address is distributed SARS information pamphlets to airlines and information posters to airports

At this stage, travel advice for anyone contemplating an overseas trip remains the same. Persons currently contemplating non-essential travel to the worst-affected areas may wish to carefully consider their plans, however there are no official travel restrictions at this stage.

Dr Tukuitonga said the results of last year's influenza pandemic emergency planning exercise known as Exercise Virex had proved to be extremely useful in the past week.

"The action plan that came out of Exercise Virex has been a valuable guideline for responding to SARS and we have had very good systems in place."

He said the National Pandemic Planning Committee, which has been co-ordinating the New Zealand resonse to SARS and reports to the Ministry of Health will meet again tomorrow to review the situation and advise on whether further action is required.


For more information contact: Hayley Brock Media Advisor Ministry of Health (04) 495 4375 021 512 898

Hayley Brock Media Advisor Government & Sector Relations\Communications Corporate & Information Directorate Ministry of Health DDI: 04 496 2115 Fax: 04 496 2010

Hayley Brock Communications Advisor Communications Government & Sector Relations Corporate & Information Directorate Ministry of Health DDI:

© Scoop Media

Culture Headlines | Health Headlines | Education Headlines

Handcrafted Form: Rare Treasures From Japan

This unique exhibition at Expressions Whirinaki represents 90 everyday objects made by contemporary Japanese artisans who employ various traditional craft techniques made in regional workshops. The works used in daily life are crafted from raw materials with techniques appropriate to bringing out the best of its medium, balancing ease of use with aesthetic appeal. More>>

Howard Davis Article: A Musical Axis - Brahms, Wagner, Sibelius

Brahms' warm and exquisitely subtle Symphony No. 3 in F major, Wagner's irrepressibly sentimental symphonic poem Siegfried Idyll, and Sibelius' chilling and immensely challenging Violin Concerto in D minor exemplify distinct stages of development in a tangled and convoluted series of skirmishes that came to define subsequent disputes about the nature of post-Romantic orchestral writing well into the following century. More>>


Scoop Review Of Books: A Pale Ghost Writer

Reviewed by Ruth Brassington, Richard Flanagan's new novel is about a novelist hastily ghost-writing the biography of a crook about to go to trial. The reader is kept on a cliff-edge, as the narrator tries to get blood out of his stone man. More>>

New Zealand Wars Commemoration: Witi Ihimaera's Sleeps Standing Moetū

The second of several articles to mark Rā Maumahara, remembering the New Zealand Land Wars. The first was a Q&A with Vincent O’Malley, author of The Great War for New Zealand: Waikato 1800–2000. More>>




  • Wellington
  • Christchurch
  • Auckland