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S.A.R.S. - Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome

Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) is a respiratory illness that has been identified as a health problem in Asia, North America and Europe. This advisory aims to create an awareness of this illness and to provide answers to commonly asked questions.

Pneumonia essentially means a lung infection caused by germs. Pneumonia usually presents itself with symptoms that enable the condition to be easily diagnosed by doctors. The organism causing the pneumonia is also usually identifiable and treatable with medications like antibiotics. Atypical pneumonias, like SARS, are caused by organisms that are not so easily identifiable, and the consequences of the infection can often be more severe.

Precautionary Notice
An individual who has traveled to an area where there has been documented transmission of SARS, and is ill or becomes ill with a respiratory illness (e.g. cough, shortness of breath, difficulty breathing) within 10 days of returning home could have SARS. The individual should:

   • Limit contact with others as much as possible.
   • Receive prompt medical evaluation.
   • Inform any health care provider they consult ahead of time of the possibility of SARS to avoid unnecessary exposure of others to the condition and also
   • Wear a mask if possible until medical evaluation.

This condition can spread easily through droplet infection and can cause a person to be very sick very quickly. There is a possibility that SARS can be transmitted more broadly through the air or from objects that are contaminated.

People planning nonessential trips to any SARS-affected area may wish to postpone their traveling until further notice.

Consult your physician if you have any questions. You can also learn more about SARS by checking the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and World Health Organization (WHO) websites.

The condition tends to present initially with the symptoms of the common flu, namely:

   • Fever and chills
   • Shortness of breath
   • Cough, sore throat and blocked, or runny nose
   • Muscle and joint aches
   • Weakness and fatigue

You should be especially wary if you also have the following conditions:

   • If you have a high fever of over 100.4°F (>38 Degrees Celsius) that comes very suddenly.
   • If you have traveled to any SARS affected region within the last 2 weeks since the onset of the symptoms.
   • If you have come into close contact with anyone who have been suspected of having SARS or someone who has the same conditions above.
   • It is not known how long before or after symptoms begin that people with SARS may become contagious. The incubation period is usually 2 to 7 days, however it can be as long as 10 days.

Course of Action
If you do have the symptoms described on the previous page, you should seek urgent medical attention. Make sure you call your physician ahead of time and follow any advice regarding how to avoid possibly infecting others at home, out in public and even when going to your physician's office. The attending doctor will examine you and may refer you to have a Chest X-Ray done as soon as possible. Depending on what the Chest X-Ray reveals, you may be referred for further assessment by the respiratory physician.

The Center for Disease Control and the World Health Organization have issued travel advisories which suggests that individuals who are planning nonessential trips to SARS-affected areas may wish to postpone their travels for a while.

Scientists have determined that a new corona virus may be the cause of SARS. Corona viruses are a common cause of mild to moderate upper-respiratory illnesses. On-going investigations are still continuing. There is no known vaccination or medication that you can take which can offer you protection, instead, the common sense approach is advocated:

   • Avoid crowded places. Keep a fair distance from people who are ill and are sneezing and coughing openly. The virus is spread through air droplets and you can pick up the virus through inhalation.
   • Wash your hands frequently to reduce your risk of picking up the virus. The virus can be transmitted by hand contact as well.
   • Maintain a healthy lifestyle. Exercise regularly, eat wisely and if you can, keep your stress levels low. Your primary defense against the any infection is your body's immune response, which is related to how healthy you are. Vitamins can help in maintaining a healthy immune system.