Department of Health
What is the Government's
policy on SARS?
At present SARS poses a low risk
in this country but the Government continues to take this situation extremely
seriously and has taken a number of precautionary measures to stop the spread
of this infection in the UK. These build on the well established systems which
already exist in this country for dealing with infectious diseases and health
We may still see more cases in
the UK. The key is to identify them promptly and ensure that there is no
onward transmission in this country.
Current evidence is that SARS is
spread mainly through close contact with someone who already has the symptoms
of SARS. Other routes of transmission appear to be rare.
The Government's strategy for
the UK is: to reduce the risk to travellers; to identify suspected patients
early; to minimise transmission within the country through appropriate
management of suspected cases and scrupulous attention to infection control;
to identify close contacts of cases and monitor their health for 10 days after
their last exposure. The UK is also contributing to the international effort
to control this disease.
Early and accurate information
has been disseminated to the public and National Health Service. Up to date
information and guidance for healthcare professionals and members of the
public is available and updated on the WHO, Health Protection Agency
(formally the PHLS) and DH websites.
A dedicated team has been
established at the Health Protection Agency (HPA) Communicable Diseases
Surveillance Centre. High quality surveillance systems have been set up to
enable the disease to be tracked closely. The HPA quickly established a
successful rapid telephone/email reporting system for suspect and probable
The Chief Medical Officer has
issued advice to people travelling abroad. He strongly advises against
travel to specified SARS affected areas in line with WHO guidelines. The
guidance is kept up to date on the DH and FCO websites.
The WHO has advised health
screening for passengers departing from the countries affected by SARS and
as a further precaution information has been distributed to the main
airports in the UK giving advice to returning travellers.
Specific guidelines, in line
with WHO advice, have been issued for the management of patients within NHS
organisations to reduce the risks of cross-infection.
The UK's considerable
scientific expertise, in collaboration with the international scientific
community, has been put in place to confirm the causative organism and
develop accurate diagnostic tests.
On 28th April 2003, the Health
Secretary, Alan Milburn, outlined a number of additional measures to manage
the risks from SARS. Actions following this include:
1 All Chief Executives of NHS
and Primary Care Trusts have been reminded of the action they need to take in
their own organisations as a precaution in case of further possible cases
presenting to the NHS. This includes advice on health care workers recruited
to the NHS from SARS affected areas.
2 Steps are being taken to
ensure that exit screening from ports of departure are robust and in
accordance with WHO guidelines, by sending UK observers to these areas.
3 Airlines returning passengers
from SARS affected areas have been asked to distribute information on SARS in
order to inform them about potential signs and symptoms.
4. Airlines have been reminded
of their obligation to provide a declaration of health on landing in the UK.
5. The Secretary of State will
meet with other Health Ministers at the World Health Assembly in May to
discuss any further measures above and beyond those already taken which could
be put in place at a European or international level.
The Government's policy on SARS
is kept under constant review.