Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) Forum
Frequently Asked Questions on SARS:
Q: What is Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS)?
A: SARS is the term being used to describe a serious respiratory illness which has recently been reported in parts of East and South East Asia.
Q: What are the symptoms of SARS?
A: The main symptoms of SARS are high fever (> 38° Celsius), dry cough, shortness of breath or breathing difficulties. Changes in chest X-rays indicative of pneumonia also occur. SARS may be associated with other symptoms, including headache, muscular stiffness, loss of appetite, malaise, confusion, rash and diarrhoea.
Q: How contagious is SARS?
A: Based on currently available evidence, close contact with an infected person poses the highest risk of the infective agent to spread from one person to another. To date, the majority of cases have occurred in hospital workers who have cared for SARS patients and the close family members of these patients. However, the amount of the infective agent needed to cause an infection has not yet been determined.
Q: What is the treatment for SARS?
A: Antibiotics and antiviral drugs are being used to treat the illness, but without knowing the cause there is no specific treatment.
Q: How fast does SARS spread?
A: SARS appears to be less infectious than influenza. The incubation period is believed to be short, around 3-6 days. However, the speed of international travel creates a risk that cases can rapidly spread around the world.
Q: What can I do to protect myself?
A: Only a few cases have been identified outside of South East Asia and these cases were in people who had travelled from there. The best advice is to be aware of the symptoms of this illness, particularly if you have recently travelled in Hong Kong, Singapore, Vietnam and other parts of South East Asia, and seek medical advice should you develop them within 10 days of your return.
Q: Is there a vaccine for this?
A: No, a vaccine is not available as the pathogen responsible is as yet unknown.
Q: When will this disease be identified?
A: An international multi-centre research project to expedite identification of the causative agent was established on Monday 17 March. Eleven top labs in ten countries are consulting daily and are working together to identify the causative agent. Laboratory tests are ongoing and a candidate causative infectious is under investigation.
Q: Where and when was the first case of SARS reported?
A: On 26 February, a man was admitted to hospital in Hanoi with high fever, dry cough, myalgia (muscle soreness) and mild sore throat. Over the next four days he developed increasing breathing difficulties, severe thrombocytopenia (low platelet count) and signs of adult respiratory distress syndrome requiring ventilator support.
Q: How many cases of SARS have been reported to date?
A: For the latest number of reported cases worldwide, please refer to the WHO website at www.who.int/en/. For the latest number of cases reported in the UK, please refer to the PHLS website at www.phls.co.uk/topics_az/SARS/menu.htm.
Q: Is the outbreak in Guangdong Province, China linked?
A: Extensive investigation is under way to better understand the outbreak of atypical (unusual) pneumonia that began in Guangdong province in November 2002. Findings from this investigation should help clarify possible links with cases of SARS.
Q: Could this result from bioterrorism?
A: There is no indication that SARS is linked to bioterrorism.
Q: What should I do if I am planning to travel to Hong Kong, Singapore, Thailand or other areas in South East Asia?
A: Travellers to South East Asia need to be aware of these outbreaks and take them into account in their travel plans.
The World Health Organization has issued a global alert warning health authorities about a highly contagious form of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome.
15 March 2003 | GENEVA -- During the past week, WHO has received reports of more than 150 new suspected cases of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), an atypical pneumonia for which cause has not yet been determined. Reports to date have been received from Canada, China, Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of China, Indonesia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Viet Nam. Early today, an ill passenger and companions who travelled from New York, United States, and who landed in Frankfurt, Germany were removed from their flight and taken to hospital isolation.
Due to the spread of SARS to several countries in a short period of time, the World Health Organization today has issued emergency guidance for travellers and airlines.
“This syndrome, SARS, is now a worldwide health threat,” said Dr. Gro Harlem Brundtland, Director General of the World Health Organization. “The world needs to work together to find its cause, cure the sick, and stop its spread.”
TRAVELLERS INCLUDING AIRLINE CREW:
All travellers should be aware of main symptoms and signs of SARS which include:
High fever (>38 deg C)
One or more respiratory symptoms including cough, shortness of breath, difficulty breathing
AND one or more of the following:
Close contact* with a person who has been diagnosed with SARS
Recent history of travel to areas reporting cases of SARS.
In the unlikely event of a traveller experiencing this combination of symptoms they should seek medical attention and ensure that information about their recent travel is passed on to the health care staff. Any traveller who develops these symptoms is advised not to undertake further travel until they have recovered.
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