- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 6, 2003

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is developing a strategy to manage any re-emergence of the SARS virus as cooler weather brings the flu season.

Although no cases of the deadly disease have been reported since July, winter’s damp, cool weather conditions could help revive the virus, according to the CDC.

“It is entirely possible for SARS to return,” said Llelwyn Grant, CDC spokesman.

A draft response plan by the CDC released last month shifts more responsibility for prevention to state and local health agencies. It also recommends strategies to prevent spread of the disease when it is detected.

“Because we recognize that SARS is here to stay, that’s why we think it’s important to have efforts like the draft plan,” Mr. Grant said. “We have actual lessons learned now that we didn’t have previously.”

Earlier this year, when SARS was recognized as a previously unknown virus, the CDC worked mostly with health agencies in other countries to develop medications and a response plan. This year, the CDC wants state and local health agencies to take greater initiative in stopping the spread of the disease.

SARS, or severe acute respiratory syndrome, emerged in a Hong Kong hotel in February when seven guests became ill with pneumonialike symptoms. The disease spread throughout China, to Southeast Asia, to Canada and other countries. Of the 8,098 persons reported infected, 774 died.

Julie L. Gerberding, CDC director, told the annual meeting of the Institute of Medicine last week that her agency is prepared to react more quickly if there is another SARS outbreak.

The CDC draft plan says preventive measures state and local health agencies can take include:

• Establishing designated sites for evaluation of potential SARS patients.

• Screening incoming or departing passengers at airports, ports and land border crossings.

• Quarantining close contacts of cases or people potentially exposed to SARS by their presence at a particular function, setting or institution.

• Closing schools, canceling large gatherings, or implementing other “snow day” measures as temporary measures to slow transmission in an affected community.

The CDC is soliciting opinions on the draft plan from health agencies and other organizations that would participate. No date is set for the final document of the CDC’s response plan.


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