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Ministry of Health lifts SARS travel warnings


3 July 2003

Media Advisory

Ministry of Health lifts SARS travel warnings

The Ministry of Health is no longer advising against travel to any country as the threat of SARS recedes.

"This is in line with the World Health Organisation, which overnight removed Toronto, Canada from its list of areas with recent local transmission of SARS following a 20-day period with no new cases," Ministry of Health spokesman Douglas Lush said.

When 20 days, or twice the incubation period, have passed without detection of a new case, the chain of human-to-human transmission is considered broken.

Dr Lush said while the Ministry was no longer warning against travel, New Zealanders doing so should still be cautious. "Internationally the feeling is that while we can stop holding our breath over SARS there is still a chance it could re-emerge in the northern hemisphere winter. So there is still a need for vigilance, albeit not at the same levels as in the past few months."

"We really hope this is the final phase of what has been a global health emergency. In just four months we have had to come to grips with what was an unknown organism with no reliable diagnostic test, no vaccine and no known cure."

Dr Lush said the only country the WHO is still listing as SARS-affected is Taiwan, but cases there are only in people previously identified and followed-up as known contacts of probable SARS cases. The last reported case in Taiwan was 19 June.

"It's also worth remembering that there are other risks to health which travellers should be aware of - such as dengue fever," he said.

"We don't want to be alarmist but it's worth reiterating that it's in every traveller's best interests to be well-informed about any health risks in the areas they intend visiting."

ENDS

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