WHO: Virus shows need for new health regulations

GENEVA: Voicing its alarm at the spread of the SARS virus, the World Health Organisation (WHO) yesterday vowed to step up efforts towards overhauling outdated international health regulations to deal more effectively with epidemics and the threat of bio-terrorism. 

The UN health agency's annual assembly said it was “deeply concerned that SARS, as the first severe infectious disease to emerge in the century, poses a serious threat to global health security, the livelihood of populations, the functioning of health systems, and the stability and growth of economies.” 

WHO also agreed to take a higher profile on the politically charged issue of patents on medicines and to gather data on whether medicines being developed by the pharmaceutical industry truly addressed global health needs. 

The decisions on SARS and intellectual property were passed by a key policy-making committee at the WHO assembly. They will now be approved by the full conference today.  

WHO director-general Gro Harlem Brundtland stressed the importance of revising the international health regulations, last updated in 1981.  

They serve to monitor and control the most dangerous infectious diseases by obliging governments to notify all outbreaks to WHO, which can then give guidance on international trade and travel. – AP  

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