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Eradicating SARS in 2003?

From SARS Watch, an excellent and highly recommended site tracking SARS, an op-ed piece from the Wall Street Journal:

As summer approaches and the SARS epidemic declines, there will be an understandable urge to celebrate. But we must eschew premature celebrations and self-congratulations. History teaches us that the devastating 1918 influenza epidemic began with a modest "herald wave" in spring that faded away during the summer, only to explode and wreck global devastation the following fall and winter. It is possible that SARS, now seeded around the globe, could follow a similar pattern and fade away this summer, only to erupt again next winter.

The coming summer lull in SARS affords an extraordinary opportunity. If we can detect, diagnose and effectively isolate every contagious case during the period when the infection rate is at its lowest, it is possible that we can truly eradicate SARS, not just for the short term, but permanently.

Epidemic-control efforts should not simply be maintained, but doubled, and redoubled again. New diagnostic tests should be mass produced and made freely available around the globe. Epidemiological teams should investigate every possible case, even in the poorest communities. Face-saving politicians who hide local epidemics must be cajoled, or more forcefully convinced, to cooperate. Special efforts must be made to detect and quench new outbreaks in the Southern Hemisphere. With skill, determination, and luck, we might be able to break all the chains of transmission before the onset of winter offers the virus a chance to spread more rapidly again...

[A] halfhearted effort at controlling the epidemic would guarantee failure. But if the U.S. is prepared to lead a world-wide coalition of nations in joining forces with the World Health Organization with the goal of doing everything possible to eradicate SARS, this extraordinary goal might just be achievable.

The full article is well worth reading.


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