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UN: Role Of Animals In Sars Spread Investigated

UN Agency Sending Expert To China To Investigate Role Of Animals In Sars Spread

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization ( FAO) is sending a leading viral disease expert on a three-week mission to China, to help coordinate an international investigation into the role animals might play in spreading the deadly Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).

"We need to know the natural host of the virus and understand if other animal species may become infected and are able to transmit it so we can be prepared to prevent epidemics of SARS arising in the future," said Laurie Gleeson, a senior Australian veterinarian from FAO's Collaborating Centre at the Australian Animal Health Laboratory in Geelong.

Dr. Gleeson, whose trip begins tomorrow, will visit several Chinese provinces, serving as a focal point in communication between Chinese authorities, FAO, the UN World Health Organization (WHO) and international researchers.

"During the mission we will collate information on research to date and identify areas that require further research. We will also explore where international collaboration will assist China to quickly resolve some key issues, such as the need for diagnostic tests for animals," he said of his role in assisting the Chinese Government develop a program to investigate animal related aspects of the SARS epidemic.

The latest statistics on SARS indicate a total 8,436 cases and 812 deaths reported worldwide.

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