Senior WHO officials said earlier this week that the new regulations that it is instituting would make it easier for countries to share information about occurrences of the disease, which is feared would turn into a global pandemic.
"SARS showed us that countries are willing to give up just a little bit of their sovereignty for the good of the world," said Dr. David Heymann, executive director for communicable diseases at WHO.
New rules, called the International Health Regulations and adopted by the World Health Assembly in May, build on lessons learned from SARS, Heymann indicated here at a meeting of the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene.
Under previous rules, WHO member-states only had to report cases of cholera, plague and yellow fever. Now they must report "all events that may constitute a public health emergency of international concern."
Countries must also put into place the infrastructure to make sure they can do this, meaning laboratories and staff that can diagnose disease outbreaks. Furthermore, countries must report any public health risks they are aware of, even if they fall outside their territories.
Comparing the severity of infectious diseases on a scale of 1 to 100, Heymann said SARS rated at 20-30 range, while influenza rates 90-100, Heymann said.