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Effective and Acceptable Strategies for the Control of SARS in China and Europe

Final Report Summary - SARSCONTROL (Effective and Acceptable Strategies for the Control of SARS in China and Europe)

The epidemic of Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) showed that new infections spread by close contact are able to spread rapidly across international borders resulting in significant morbidity. They can even cause widespread public alarm and economic loss in unaffected countries. It is therefore critical to assess the likelihood of similar occurrences and their possible impact on public health, economic performance and public concern. SARSCONTROL aimed to improve the public health response to emerging infections such as SARS and influenza through better knowledge of the spread of these viruses, improved risk assessment, mathematical modelling, economic analysis and risk communication strategies.

All of these activities were done in conjunction with policy-makers and key stakeholders in Europe, helping to improve the quality of decision-making. A database with all SARS cases from mainland China in conjunction with WHO data was used to help develop models for the local and geographical spread of SARS. A toolbox of models was developed covering the range of alternative approaches. Through their efforts in standardising epidemiological and control parameters, a consensus view on model-based policy recommendations was derived. These model results were combined with analyses of the micro- and macro-economic consequences of SARS-like infections to evaluate the potential economic impact of different control options.

Because the acceptance of interventions depends on social, cultural and psychological factors, SARS-related risk perceptions and precautionary practices were studied along with the risk communication strategies adopted during the outbreak to help improve future strategies for communicating with the public. Vulnerable communities, such as Chinese in Europe, received particular attention. SARSCONTROL was therefore an integrated multidisciplinary project to aid European policy on emerging infections.

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