§ The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health (Ms Hazel Blears)
In response to information received from the World Health Organisation (WHO) on the first reported cases of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), the Department, along with the Health Protection Agency (HPA) has continually monitored the threat to the UK from this as yet unidentified virus.
On 13 March, the Department issued an alert to all general practitioners, National Health Service trusts, and public health professionals, with detailed information on the symptoms of this illness and advice on the management and reporting of probable cases. The Public Health Laboratory Service (as it was at the time) also issued information to professionals through their alert system.
Further information has subsequently been made available to the profession and public on infection control, surveillance, management of patients, microbiological sampling and investigation and advice for travellers to affected areas and updated on a daily basis via the Department's and the PHLS's websites.
As a result of this timely response and high degree of vigilance amongst the profession and public, to date we have had only three probable cases of SARS in the UK, this is against a total number of 1,804 in 15 countries. All three of the cases in the UK have recovered from their illness.
These robust public health measures currently in place have so far contained this disease in the UK.
We, along with the HPA and WHO, continue to monitor this situation very carefully and advise the public and profession accordingly.