SARS update

Many of you will be very concerned about SARS, and travelling overseas to Australia. Please note:

Australia is currently not considered by WHO to be a SARS-infected area.

Message from J. J. Gibson:


There is not any significant risk in Australia as of now. They have good surveillance (Australia is good at public health) and so far no real cases to my knowledge. Also no real reason to exclude people from Taiwan, Hong Kong or even Mainland China although it will be important for them to watch themselves for fever and respiratory symptoms on entry and while in Australia (and anywhere else too). They will be reminded of that on entry to Australia. SARS is not infectious before the onset of symptoms according to current work. Same for Toronto people. The US have been very successful in preventing transmission here using those principles.

We are having trouble here explaining that it really looks like SARS is not infectious until a patient gets sick. And transmission in most countries is only from very close direct contact, as in a family setting or from caring for a SARS patient....and even those are rare. Australia does not seem to have any yet, and I think your public health system would pick up a real case quickly. Thus the statements were correct (from the perspective of the South Carolina State Epidemiologist, myself) as of the date I sent them and also at present. I suspect they will still be true in June and July as well but if you were very unlucky and went the way of Toronto early on, or Taiwan now, they might have to be changed a little. (J. J. Gibson; personal communication used with permission; 16th May, 2003).

James Jerry Gibson, MD, MPH
State Epidemiologist and Director
Bureau of Disease Control
South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control

The Commonwealth Department of Health and Ageing has advised that the risk of contracting SARS is low.

Note that the World Health Organisation's warning against travel to Toronto has been lifted - even though Toronto is still listed by WHO as a "SARS-infected" area. But Australia is not SARS-infected.

See the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade for further information from the Australian Government and WHO - in particular information about travel to and from Australia, and issues of transit via SARS-infected countries. I hope such material helps alleviate your concerns and helps you to plan a safe travel itinery for ICPA.

Rest assured we will monitor the situation closely and advise you of any serious negative developments.

We certainly hope that SARS does not lead to cancellatiopn of ICPA. We currently expect that ICPA will continue to be held as planned provided that delegates continue to register.

Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade