THE World Health Organisation (WHO) has removed Singapore from its map of Sars hot zones, as US scientists say a vaccine will probably be available within three years.
While the spread of the disease appears to have slowed in Asia, in Canada’s largest city, Toronto, health authorities reported another death and ten more cases yesterday.
The global death toll today was at least 756, with more than 8300 people having contracted severe acute respiratory syndrome, most in Asia.
Officials in Hong Kong said they may offer cash rewards to people who turn in neighbours who spit or litter in an effort to improve hygiene, after government economists predicted the Sars outbreak would cut the territory’s economic growth in half, to 1.5 per cent.
WHO removed Singapore from its list of countries affected by the virus, saying it was 20 days - twice the virus’s maximum incubation period - since the last locally acquired case was placed in isolation.
"From the start, Singapore’s handling of its Sars outbreak has been exemplary," said Dr David Heymann, executive director for communicable diseases at WHO. "This is an inspiring victory that should make all of us optimistic that Sars can be contained everywhere."
Toronto’s cluster of new cases last week was a harsh blow to a health care system that looked to have brought an initial Sars outbreak in March and April under control. Health officials have told more than 7800 people to quarantine themselves due to possible exposure.
A 57-year-old man who died on Thursday raised the overall death toll to 30 in Toronto, epicentre of the biggest outbreak of Sars outside of Asia.
Meanwhile, US scientists believe they will have a vaccine for Sars within three years, far less than the 15-20 years it has taken to create vaccines in the past.
Dr Gary Nabel, of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said scientists were set to finish basic lab work, create the vaccine and test it on animals in just one year.
They will then spend two years trying it out on people to ensure it works, then turn the results over to the US Food and Drug Administration for approval.