Press Release

Statement from the Department of Health and Children following the meeting of the SARS Expert Group

At the meeting SARS Expert Group today, a number of issues were discussed. The Group was briefed on the evolving situation worldwide as discussed by the WHO which shows a total of 3,861 cases and 217 deaths. The major affected areas include China with 1,959 cases, Hong Kong 1,402, Singapore 178, Vietnam 63 and Canada 132. This represents a continuing rise in the incidences of SARS worldwide and the evolving pattern is being closely monitored by the Department of Health and Children and the SARS Expert Group. It was noted that worldwide reports are now suggesting the possibility of a greater than anticipated rate of increase in the incidence of SARS in China.

The Group reviewed the advice for travellers arriving in Ireland from affected areas and recommended that additional measures be introduced at points of entry including the distribution of multilingual information leaflets, in addition to the information posters already in place in airports and ports.

The Group issued advice in relation to the question of children returning to school in Ireland from SARS affected areas after the current holidays. The Group recommended that schools should contact their pupils prior to their return to Ireland and advise them that they should be screened in their place of residence and if unwell or if having recently been in contact with a known case of SARS, to refrain from travelling for 10 days. On their return to school, children should be monitored for 10 days for temperature and respiratory symptoms.

The Group held a preliminary discussion on the Special Olympics, which identified major issues which need to be addressed in making recommendations. These include the evolving world situation regarding SARS, the increasing knowledge of the nature of the disease, its potential for spread, and the development of new diagnostic tests. The Group also discussed the more general issues of communicable diseases and the logistics of implementing any special public health measures which might be required. The Expert Group will meet with the Special Olympics organisers in the coming days to discuss the issues as outlined above.

Following the meeting of the Expert Group, the Chairman, Dr Jim Kiely Chief Medical Officer, along with other Department officials, met this afternoon with a representative of the Chinese Embassy for a general discussion on the issue of SARS.