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Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome

Volume 405: debated on Monday 12 May 2003

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To ask the Secretary of State for Health how the alert on severe acute respiratory syndrome was disseminated to (a) health professionals and (b) the public. [108180]

The Department of Health issued information and advice to all general practitioners, trusts and public health professionals on Friday 14 March and on Monday 7 April via the Chief Medical Officers Public Health Link System. The Department also issued advice to the public and travellers about severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) through its website, which is reviewed on a daily basis.Following the statement in the House by my right hon. Friend, the Secretary of State for Health, on 28 April, a letter went to all chief executives of national health service primary care trusts, reminding them of the precautionary action they need to take in their own organisations in case of further possible cases of SARS presenting to the NHS.

To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will allocate funding for a vaccine to counter severe acute respiratory syndrome. [107930]

The probable causative pathogen of severe acute respiratory syndrome has only recently been identified. There is still a certain amount of scientific work to be carried out before we can start research into the development of a vaccine.

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what representations he has received on the level of satisfaction amongst health professionals with the (a) adequacy and (b) timeliness of information on severe acute respiratory syndrome. [108181]

We have provided early, accurate information to both the public and the health service in response to the World Health Organisation (WHO) global alert about severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS). The Chief Medical Officer (CMO) contacted all doctors on 14 March and subsequently on 7 April with detailed information on the symptoms and signs of SARS, and what to do if they encountered a possible case. Up to date information on SARS is also available to the public on the WHO, Health Protection Agency and Department of Health websites, as well as through the NHS Direct telephone helpline, which many members of the public have contacted.The CMO issued advice to people travelling abroad on 2, 23 and 30 April in line with WHO recommendations. He strongly advised against travel to specific SARS affected areas. That remains his very strong advice.As a result of this timely response, to date we have had only six probable cases of SARS in the United Kingdom against a total of 6,583 in 27 countries.