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Australia's regional response to SARS.



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MEDIA RELEASE MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS ALEXANDER DOWNER

AA 03 022 28 Apr 2003

Australia's Regional Response to SARS

Australia will contribute $1.2 million to the World Health Organisation (WHO) to help prevent and control outbreaks of SARS in the Western Pacific region.

Australia's contribution will be made through WHO's Western Pacific Regional Office (WPRO), which is implementing an emergency response to outbreaks of SARS. The WPRO has responsibility for some of the most affected countries, including China.

Our urgent support was sought by the WPRO last week and the funds will be used to deploy experts in epidemiology, infection control, virology and communicable disease control, procure supplies and equipment and produce training materials in local languages.

Emergency start-up kits of barrier nursing equipment have already been purchased and shipped by the WPRO to Kiribati, Fiji, Guam, Samoa, Tonga, Brunei, Vanuatu, Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea, Laos, the Philippines, Cambodia, Macao and Mongolia.

Severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS, appears to be the first severe and easily transmissible new disease to emerge in the twenty first century. According to latest statistics from the WHO (as at 26 April 2003), the total number of cases reported is 4836 across 26 countries (including nine countries in the Asia Pacific) with 293 deaths.

A SARS outbreak could quickly become a public health emergency in some developing countries, where the challenge to stop the spread of SARS through effective prevention, infection control and treatment will be made more difficult by limited public health infrastructure.

While SARS presents a global problem, the majority of cases reported so far have been from Asia, where the disease is already having major economic and social impacts on our region.

In light of this, the Australian Government believes a regional response is the most appropriate and effective action at this time.

Contacts: Chris Kenny (Minister's office) (02) 6277 7500 or 0419 206 890 Jo Elsom (AusAID) (02) 6206 4960 or 0412 804 489