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Global Epidemic Information Database Needed: WHO
World Health Organization (WHO) experts have called for the creation of a global information database to enhance exchange of information on contagious diseases such as severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS).

Alan Schnur, team leader of Communicable Disease Control of the WHO office in China, made the appeal at the ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations), China, Japan and ROK (10+3) High-level Symposium on Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, which closed in Beijing Wednesday.

Access to individual nations' data is critical in battling epidemics such as SARS, Schnur said, and it would be conducive for the government, medical personnel and general public to make known SARS information rapidly and comprehensively.

Schnur said that contagious diseases could be detrimental to the public health as well as to other sectors such as the economy in the era of globalization.

Countries should participate in setting up the database by reporting their own epidemic situation, analyzing measures and sharing related information and experience, Schnur acknowledged.

The WHO would collect information from various governments, non-governmental organizations and international agencies, acquaint itself with the latest global developments concerning the infectious diseases and then resort to counter-measures, Schnur said.

He noted that the data would be very wide-ranging instead of being limited within the field of communicable diseases.

It is imperative for countries across the world to share common criteria on diagnoses of diseases and evaluation of their severity and impact so as to facilitate the use of disease information from various countries and regions, said Max Hardiman with the Department of Communicable Disease Surveillance and Response of the WHO global alert and response sector.

The WHO will strive to strengthen the two-way access to SARS information, Hardiman said.

The two-day symposium was a follow-up to the joint declaration proclaimed at the Special China-ASEAN Leaders' Meeting on SARS held on April 29 in Bangkok, Thailand.

About 100 delegates from the ASEAN nations, Japan, the Republic of Korea (ROK), the WHO, and health officials from Mongolia, the United States, Britain, France, Canada and China attended the seminar.

(Xinhua News Agency June 4, 2003)

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