WHO urges China to release SARS info
BEIJING: World Health Organization (WHO) officials urged China Monday to provide them with extra information on SARS, saying much more data was needed to determine how, and how fast, the disease was spreading.
Information from Beijing is not only crucial for the WHO to help devise strategies to control Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome in China but also keep it from spreading in other countries, they said.
“China has the highest number of cases (and the earliest cases),” said Henk Bekedam, WHO’s representative in China.
“They have a wealth of information. It’s time they share the wealth of information with the outside so we can all learn what SARS is all about.”
Bekedam was among WHO officials who told reporters they were still waiting for China to provide information on the date of onset for the hundreds of new cases Beijing reported in the past week.
Without such basic information, they cannot tell how the deadly virus is spreading and what measures Beijing and China should take, they said.
“In order for us to know what recommendations to give to Beijing, we need to know what the situation is. We’re just now being given data and the data is in the form that’s not exactly easy for us to look at,” said Daniel Chin, a WHO epidemiologist.
The experts said they also needed to know where the cases are occurring, something Beijing has not told them.
“We hope to have in coming days from Beijing how many of these new cases are sporadic, how many are clustered,” said Alan Schnur, head of WHO’s communicable disease office in Beijing.
Such information is necessary to determine whether there are incidences such as the Amoy Gardens scenario in Hong Kong, where many residents of the housing compound became infected, they said.
About 50 percent of the 1,199 people infected in Beijing are probably new cases, meaning the date of onset was within one week of the cases being reported, Schnur said. —AFP