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SARS cause must be found to prevent more outbreaks

Cause of SARS must be found to prevent future outbreaks, UN agency says

The threat of future outbreaks of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS ) remains real as long as its source is unknown, the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) warned today, calling for more research on the disease.

"To date there is no evidence that farm animal species have been infected with SARS coronavirus found in humans," the UN agency said in a statement, which was based on the report of Laurie Gleeson, a senior Australian veterinarian who recently returned from a three-week UN mission to China aimed at reviewing data collected from animal sources.

"Based on preliminary laboratory testing, a number of animal species is under investigation as a possible source for the virus, including the palm civet, racoon dog, a species of fruit bat, and one species of snake, yet we still don't know the original source," Dr. Gleeson said, adding that those animals could have been exposed to the virus in the markets.

She recommended targeted surveillance studies of animal populations considered to be at high risk of exposure to SARS.

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