Wednesday, 28 May 2003

Lome (Fides Service) – Disquieting information on the number of cases of SARS and deaths continues to arrive, provoking inevitably an increase in anxiety. The most recent figures issued by the World Health Organisation with regard to Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome are: 8221 cases 735 deaths, in 28 countries. Recent mortal cases have been reported in China 4, Hong Kong 2 and Taiwan 4. The percentage is high and, seeing that the affected areas are “restricted”, we asked Professor Tarsitani of La Sapienza University in Rome how come no one has thought of supplying a vaccine to try to control the situation. We are all aware of the fact that the elaboration of a vaccine requires time and care but we hope that the call to stop this spreading epidemic, which has come particularly from missionaries spread all over the world also in the most affected countries, will find a response. Dr Tarsitani said this by way of reply:
“I think that we must not be tranquillisers at all costs but we must not allow the masse of information to create unjustified anxiety and panic. In Hong Kong and Taiwan there is an epidemic, although limited, information is not accurate and often there tales of chains of contagion. It is true that in those areas it is difficult to keep the situation under control, also because the norms of direct prevention (isolation, disinfection) are not always effective for diseases spread through the air. We are waiting for the disease to reach its apex and then to decline (following preventative measures taken) when we can draw a sigh of relief. We cannot say when this will happen.
A vaccine cannot be produced in a short period of time. In theory, having isolated the virus, we then try to re-produce it and, once inactivated, see if it works as a vaccine. But it is not necessarily innocuous or effective. Moreover experimenting a product never tried on humans, demands suitable testing which takes a long time (years not months).
In brief, in my opinion, we must keep calm, use our common sense, and realise that the disease is restricted to those countries and when it reaches other places, Canada for example, the intervention of the health authorities put it under control.
I am worried about the Autumn when, with the spread of influenza, colds and bronchitis etc. suspected cases of SARS (but not SARS) and possible reaction of panic may put health systems in crisis” (AP) (Fides Service 28/5/2003 EM lines 37 Words: 456)

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