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SARS fight is showing progress

The World Health Organization announced over the weekend that most of the SARS outbreaks around the world are coming to an end. We certainly hope that is the case.

The World Health Organization announced over the weekend that most of the SARS outbreaks around the world are coming to an end. We certainly hope that is the case.

In addition to the death toll around the world, the severe acute respiratory virus has damaged the world economy and raised havoc with tourism, especially to overseas countries. Some experts are saying that tourism will be off at least 30 percent during the prime summer months for travel by U.S. citizens.

The SARS virus has affected close to 8,000 people around the world already and killed at least 625.

WHO officials said they were hopeful that measures to control the spread of the disease were working, but admitted there are difficult struggles still ahead in mainland China.

But Mike Ryan, WHO's coordinator of the global effort to stop SARS, said although the epidemic in mainland China is large, it is no more complex than it is in other countries and the Chinese government is making great strides.

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Scientists from 16 worldwide locations affected by SARS met at WHO's Geneva headquarters to discuss factors that allow the virus to spread and the effectiveness of control measures.

Epidemiologists at the meeting concluded that the pattern of the SARS outbreaks is similar in different places.

Dr. Margaret Chan, director of Hong Kong's Department of Health, said scientists tend to agree that SARS is spread almost exclusively by droplets from coughing and sneezing.

Ryan said the good news is that the control measures designed by WHO at the beginning of the epidemic have worked.

"In country after country, we have managed to break the cycle of transmission through the simple implementation of good case finding, control tracing and isolation practices in hospitals," said Ryan.

He said the main lesson of SARS is to be prepared and organized, and admitted a better job needs to be done with any future epidemics like this one.

We certainly agree with Ryan's assessment. There's no substitute for good preparation and communication.

It is our sincere hope that health officials are moving rapidly toward stopping this deadly virus in its tracks.

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Forum editorials represent the opinion of Forum management and the newspaper's Editorial Board

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