There are fewer cases of SARS in the U.S. than was previously thought. The number of SARS cases dropped from 208 to 35, thanks to new techniques for identifying SARS. CDC Director Dr. Julie Gerberding says, “I think we did cast a very wide net early on?We have a test available now and that is going to help us sort out the cases truly related to coronavirus. We do not want to exaggerate the scope of the problem here.” And despite a raging epidemic of SARS in Toronto, Ontario, British Columbia has managed to stay relatively SARS-free.

Gerberding says, “It may very well be that our isolation system is contributing to that but it also may be just luck?that we haven’t had people who are highly infectious.”

When the first case of SARS turned up at Vancouver General Hospital on March 7, emergency room doctors had already been alerted about the new disease, so they immediately isolated the patient and quarantined everyone who had been in contact with him. “We’ve had some luck,” says medical health officer Dr. Robert Parker.

Japan is one of the few Asian countries to have no cases of SARS as yet. Health officials there attribute this to the Japanese custom of frequent hand washing, which is emphasized starting in childhood.

But it may be dangerous to rely too much on soap and water, since exposure to sunlight can turn triclosan, an ingredient in antibacterial soaps, a mild dioxin, and dioxins are known to be hazardous to our health. Since they don’t degrade over time, they can accumulate in body tissues. Clare Oxborrow, of Friends of the Earth, says, “We would have concerns about anything which accumulates in the body in the way this does. Early studies have also shown that it may have some endocrine disrupting?gender bending?effects on animals.”

SARS may be heading our way, so we should all sharpen our weapons of self defense.

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