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U.S. not ready for SARS outbreak

U.S. not ready for SARS outbreak

The United States is ill-equipped to handle a major outbreak of the deadly severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) virus, according to a report commissioned by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The study, conducted by University of Louisville researchers, cites a lack of specialists who study diseases, along with cuts in state and local health department budgets. "The current shortage of epidemiologists, public health nurses, and other personnel in the U.S. will reach a crisis stage in the event of an epidemic," the report says. "If these positions are not restored, an otherwise containable epidemic may spread rapidly." Though the most recent SARS epidemic was contained, health officials say it could reemerge any time, possibly aided by an expected worse-than-normal flu season. Some health experts worry that people with compromised immune systems, including those with HIV, may be at a higher risk for SARS and for serious SARS complications. SARS was first reported in Asia in February. Over the next few months it spread to more than 25 countries in North America, South America, Europe, and Asia. The disease infected about 8,000 people, killing 780. The CDC reported that 164 people in the United States had been infected but that no deaths were reported.

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