SARS, ‘Asian Flu’ Update, Advisory, Advice: A Look At The Spreading Illness

The UVM Center for Health & Wellbeing is keeping a close eye on what is happening regarding SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome). To date we have done the following: our Medical Clinic staff has reviewed the SARS diagnostic criteria, Dr. Jon Porter M.D., Medical Director is keeping in touch with the VT Public Health Department for related health advisories. Also, if the two suspected cases in Vermont turn out to be SARS, we will send a memo to the UVM Community outlining what we are doing and/or will do. We have been in touch with Harlan Smith, Immigration Specialist in the International Education Office to coordinate efforts and information about where UVM Students, Faculty & Staff are currently traveling, where they have traveled to and also, where they may be planning to go. We will continue to provide health related information to travelers and their families as needed. We will keep the UVM Community informed by way of our Web site www.uvm.edu/health where we will continue to provide current information and links to CDC (Center for Disease Control), WHO (World Health Organization) and other relevant Web sites.What is SARS?People with severe acute respiratory syndrome have the following: sudden high fever, Shortness of breath, cough, difficulty in breathing. A history of travel to Peoples’ Republic of China (i.e., mainland China and Hong Kong Special Administrative Region); Hanoi, Vietnam; and Singapore within 10 days of symptom onset or, close contact (within 10 days of the symptom onset) to persons with respiratory illness having the above travel history put one at risk. Note: Close contact includes having cared for, lived with, or had directcontact with respiratory secretions and body fluids of a person with SARS.Other symptoms may include muscular aches and stiffness, headache, diarrhea, rash, and confusion. The symptoms are a feature of other diseases, so even if you are experiencing some of the symptoms it is not necessarily SARS. You ought to seek urgent medical help if: you have been in contact with someone who has been diagnosed with SARS or has been in contact with someone with SARS, or if you have recently come from Hong Kong, Singapore or China or any of the countries that have SARS casesThe symptoms listed are common to a number of well known diseases but the World Health Organization (WHO) is concerned for a number of reasons. They have not been able to isolate what is probably a new mutation of a virus rather than bacteria. It is believed to be a more lethal form of the corona virus, the type of virus that causes the common cold. The illness does not respond to the usual medications such as antibiotics and antiviral drugs. The speed that the illness is spreading. The virus causes serious pneumonia and requires active, expensive medical intervention. Health workers are particularly vulnerable.Rest, good nutrition and support for respiratory symptoms and isolating the victims are proving most effective way to treat this new disease.The world Health Organization as well as individual governments are advising that travel to affected areas should be avoided if possible. President Bush has said that anyone infected by the illness will be isolated.People traveling from Mainland China and Hong Kong; Singapore; and Hanoi, Vietnam have been issued this Travel Alert:”During your recent travel, you may have been exposed to cases of severe acute respiratory syndrome. You should monitor your healthfor at least 10 days. If you become ill with fever accompanied by cough or difficulty in breathing, you should consult a physician. To help your physician make a diagnosis, tell him or her about your recent travel to these regions and whether you were in contact with someone who had these symptoms. Refer to the UVM Travel Health Web site for updates and links to other Travel Health resources. http://www.uvm.edu/health/?Page=travel.htmlScientists have long predicted that a mutated virus could cause a pandemic and we have already seen a number of them, some of them much more dangerous than SARS, such as the Ebola virus and AIDS. Although SARS is causing problems and deaths the mortality rate is higher in areas of poverty. Poverty means the victims of disease are already more vulnerable because of poor nutrition and they often have compromised immune systems. The elderly, the very young and sick are at more risk.