Learning from the SARS outbreak

Abstract

Many new human diseases of animal origin are expected to appear over the coming decades as a result of environmental disruption, global warming and behavioral change, scientists at a meeting at the Royal Society in London warned last month as a growing number of scientists and other bodies contemplate future threats from infections presently occurring in animals that may spread to humans. The reappearance of Severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars) in China, the potentially lethal pneumonia-like disease that killed 800 people in 27 countries last year, is a signal to the world of the threat from emerging infections that appear to have jumped from animals, researchers said. The first case of Sars since last year’s outbreak was confirmed last month in a television journalist from Guangzhou, the southern Chinese city in the province of Guangdong. Further cases have since been confirmed by the Chinese authorities. Professor Tony McMichael, director of the National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health at the Australian National University, Canberra, said: “Sars, Aids, Ebola and Marburg’s disease have all emerged in the past 30-40 years. There have been 30 new diseases since 1975 and we can expect a similar number in the future.” Most new infections have occurred as a result of increased human contact with animals. Aids is believed to have arisen when humans moved into the forests of Africa on logging expeditions and killed chimpanzees for their meat, McMichael said. Malik Peiris, professor of microbiology at Hong Kong University and one of the first scientists to identify the Sars virus, said there was an urgent need to monitor viruses that jumped from animals to humans. Many did not cause disease in their original animal hosts so were not picked up by conventional veterinary checks, he said. “We were fortunate. Sars was a global health problem solved with a global effort. It will not be the last and a global effort to solve News focus

DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2004.01.007

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Cite this paper

@article{Williams2004LearningFT, title={Learning from the SARS outbreak}, author={Nigel Williams}, journal={Current Biology}, year={2004}, volume={14}, pages={R91-R93} }