Sars: Contain Yourself

As of last week, the respiratory illness SARS had infected 2,890 people worldwide and killed 116. But despite the disease's onslaught, health officials emphasize that 96 percent of victims recover fully and that there is no hard evidence of airborne or blood-borne transmission. "We are overisolating, overdiagnosing and probably overdoing the whole effort to achieve containment," says Julie Gerberding, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. She adds that the U.S. tally (166 suspected cases) would fall once a reliable diagnostic test was found. Researchers at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute for Infectious Diseases, at Fort Detrick, Md., are screening thousands of compounds that might help patients. Tests seemed to rule out the antiviral drug ribavirin, while interferon, used to fight hepatitis B and C, looked promising (despite limits on potential use due to side effects). "I think it'll work," says Peter Jahrling, USAMRIID's chief scientific adviser. -