WHO Warns of SARS Resurgence, Urges Vigilance

The head of the World Health Organisation warned health specialists on Monday of a possible resurgence of the deadly SARS virus later this year and urged countries to boost surveillance to contain the threat.

"None of us can predict what will happen later this year. Will SARS come back or not?" director-general Lee Jong-wook told a five-day WHO regional committee meeting in Manila.

"We have to prepare on the assumption that this will come back. Our challenge now is to enhance surveillance networks that will detect and deal with SARS if it does come back," Lee said in his opening address.

Other officials said flu cases reported recently in Chinese mainland, Hong Kong and the Canadian city of Vancouver turned out not to be associated with SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome).

"We are certain that the human-to-human transmission of the virus stopped in July and it hasn't come back yet. But the virus is still out there," said Peter Cordingley, WHO's head of public information in the Western Pacific region.

"We think it's quite likely lurking in the wild animal population in southern China. There's absolutely no guarantee that it won't jump the species barrier again and come back."

SARS, which is believed to have jumped from animals to humans in southern China late last year, has killed more than 800 people worldwide. It infected a total of about 8,500 people, trimmed economic growth forecasts and cost billions of dollars in lost business.

Cordingley said WHO was not sure whether SARS was a disease confined to winter months. (Source: agencies)

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