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Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome

27 April 2004

THE MINISTRY of Health is reminding all doctors and hospitals to be alert to any possible cases of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome following reports of new cases in China.

"Clearly we are keeping a close eye on the situation in China, where authorities are reporting one death and seven probable cases of SARS " acting Director of Public Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield said today.

A number of people who have been in contact with these patients are also ill and have been isolated while others who have been in contact but are not showing signs of illness are in quarantine.

Dr Bloomfield said the current eight cases in China appear to have got the infection from laboratory and hospital exposure.

"There is no evidence of transmission in the general community or to tourists in China. We are not, at this stage, advising people to defer travel to China."

"However anyone who has recently travelled in China and is unwell should telephone their doctor, describe their travel history and seek advice.''

Dr Bloomfield said although the risk of anyone arriving in New Zealand with SARS seemed low, the Ministry of Health was acting prudently in advising health authorities of the situation in China, and reminding them of appropriate precautions.

"General practitioners and after-hours emergency centres need to be alert to this possibility, and to ensure they take a travel history of any patient who has symptoms of respiratory infection.

"Given what we now know about SARS it is also timely to stress to all health care workers the importance of rigorous infection control."

"Hospitals should also be alert to the possibility of SARS when they admit anyone with respiratory infection or pneumonia - particularly if the person has been in China and even more so if they have had contact with a SARS patient."

Dr Bloomfield said the Ministry of Health was confident that last year's experience with SARS had equipped the health sector to respond well to any re-emergence of SARS.

The Chinese Government is working with the World Health Organisation to confirm the situation and prevent further spread.


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