07 MAY 2003

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No cause for alarm on SARS object contamination says Health and Safety Authority
The Occupational Health and Safety Authority and the Public Health department has reacted to the news that the SARS virus can live up to 24 hours on physical objects by saying no form of precautions were needed to be taken at this stage.
The OHSA and the Public Health department said the measures that had been taken earlier on are still valid and that there should be no "cause for panic and alarm".
Earlier this week, collaborating World Health Organisation scientists reported results of the first scientific studies on the survival time of the SARS virus in different environmental media.
The results, conducted at labs in Hong Kong, Japan, and Germany confirm that SARS can survive after drying on plastic surfaces for up to 48 hours.
Ongoing studies are testing virus stability on additional surfaces, with initial results expected by today.
Scientists also tested virus survival times in faeces. Research conducted at one Hong Kong lab determined that the virus can survive in faeces for at least two days, and in urine for at least 24 hours.
Another Hong Kong lab found that virus in diarrhoea faeces could survive for four days, The dose of virus needed to cause infection remains unknown and further studies are being conducted.
WHO said the results have underlined the importance of frequent handwashing, proper cleaning, and good disinfection control in hospitals managing SARS cases.
Spread by infected droplets remains the most important mode of transmission. SARS is thought to spread in the majority of cases through close person-to-person exposure to infected droplets expelled during coughing or sneezing.
Faeces outbreaks in Hong Kong last March raised the possibility of an environmental source of infection where sewage might have played a role.
As of yesterday, a cumulative total of 6,583 probable SARS cases with 461 deaths have been reported from 27 countries.

Copyright © Newsworks Ltd. Malta.
Editor: Saviour Balzan
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