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  • Leading epidemiologist warns of SARS monitoring difficulties

One of the world’s leading experts on the spread of infectious diseases has warned that the major threat of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) lies in the “large populous regions of the world” that lack sophisticated disease reporting mechanisms and good containment mechanisms.

Roy Anderson, professor of epidemiology at Imperial College, London, who has played a key role in providing policy-makers with advice of dealing with epidemics ranging from HIV/AIDS to diseases in cattle, says that at present, such techniques appear to be successful in containing the spread of SARS, “certainly in developed countries”.

In contrast, however, concern among epidemiologists is focused on countries such as China, India and Indonesia “where the disease reporting systems are limited, and it is much less clear … what is going on”.

Anderson’s comments were made in an interview with the BBC News on-line, in which he revealed that his own analysis — to be published in a medical journal later this week — suggests that the virus responsible for SARS could kill up to about one in one in seven of those infected.

This is a significantly higher mortality rate than the official prediction of about one in 20 from the World Health Organisation (WHO).

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