Over 150 suspected cases of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) - an atypical form of pneumonia of unknown etiology have been recorded across the globe during the first half of March. Suspected cases of the disease including 9 deaths atttributed to the disease have been reported throughout Asia, Europe and the United States with the first confirmed death attributed to the syndrome affecting an American businessman who died in Hong Kong following a trip to Vietnam.
No Travel Restrictions Recommended by WHO
Because the disease appears to spread easily the World Health Organization (WHO) has issued emergency guidance to world travelers and airlines. Although describing SARS as a "worldwide health threat," the WHO has made no recommendation for people to restrict their travel plans.
Dr. Gro Harlem Brundtland, the Director General of the WHO, in discussing SARS has said, "the world needs to work together to find its cause, cure the sick, and stop its spread."
WHO Travel Guideline
The WHO have issued guidelines for travelers, airlines and airline crews based on the preliminary information available to them regarding the disease.
These guidelines include:
Symptom Awareness- the symptoms and signs of SARS include a high fever exceeding 38 degrees centigrade (100.4 degrees fahrenheit); respiratory symptoms including a cough, shortness of breath, or difficulty in breathing; close contact with a person who has been diagnosed with SARS; and recent travel to areas reporting SARS. Other symptoms potentially linked to the disease include headache, muscular stiffness, loss of appetite, malaise, confusion, rash and diarrhea.
Anyone suffering from symptoms conforming to the above guidelines should seek professional medical attentions and ensure that they inform the attending physician about their recent travel.
In order to stop the spread of the disease, people suffering SARS symptoms should refrain from traveling until they are fully recovered.
The WHO have also issued specific guidance to airlines who suspect their crews or passengers are suffering from SARS.
Scientist Scramble to Find the Cause of the Disease
Scientists are involved in a worldwide effort to identify the specific organism causing the illness as a necessary pre-condition to controlling or eradicating the disease.
The WHO has recommended that those suffering from SARS be isolated and that barrier nursing techniques be used while treating the illness.
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