SARS to Stop, or Here to Stay?

Medical Author: Frederick Hecht, M.D.
Medical Editors: Barbara K. Hecht, Ph.D. and Leslie J. Schoenfield, M.D., Ph.D.

Will the spread of SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) be stopped? Will the disease be eradicated? Or will it stay with us?

The optimistic view was expressed by Donald Burke, Professor and Director, Center for Immunization Research, at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, writing in the Wall Street Journal.

"The coming summer lull in SARS affords an extraordinary opportunity. If we can detect, diagnose, and effectively isolate every contagious case during the period when the infection rate is at its lowest, it is possible that we can truly eradicate SARS, not just for the short term, but permanently."

The pessimistic view was put forth by Dr. Jeffrey P. Koplan, the former head of the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). "What we can hope for is a suppression and minimization," Dr. Koplan said. "To think that magically this government or any government or any scientist in the world could stop this, like you stop a car at a stop sign, is very unrealistic."

In the midst of scientific uncertainty, one certainty is that SARS is going to stay in the news for a while. As with other medical matters of importance, MedicineNet will continue to keep you informed and provide perspective about SARS.

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