SEVERE ACUTE RESPIRATORY SYNDROME (SARS)

Introduction

Characteristics

Transmission

Methods for Monitoring in the Environment

Methods for Measuring Human Exposure

Strategies for Preventing or Controlling Exposure


Harmful Effects

Absorption, Distribution and Metabolism

Sites of Toxicity

Biomarkers of Disease

Molecular Mechanisms of Action

Risk Assessment/Management

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PREVENTION AND CONTROL OF SARS

Past experience with respiratory viruses tells us that they are likely to re-emerge, so it is imperative to immediately engage in planning activities. Planning allows for healthcare facilities to look for weaknesses in their systems as well as solidifies relationships within the hospital as well as to local health departments, so in the event of an outbreak, healthcare workers know exactly who to call. Boosting supplies of PPE (personal protective equipment) and printing off copies of contact-tracking forms among other activities that can be done before an outbreak, will all help reduce the stress level if/when the outbreak occurs.

Prevention begins the moment the patient walks through the door at an ER or clinic. Every healthcare worker in pathway of care (triage, reception, waiting room, provider, admissions, transport, respiratory therapist) has a potential to be exposed. All healthcare workers should be able to identify a suspicious case and know what procedures to carry out to protect themselves and other healthcare workers. Infection control is everyone’s responsibility. If possible, “sick” and “well” waiting areas should be designated. Physical barriers between patients and triage/reception could cut down the possibility for exposure. Even simple things like making tissues and hand hygiene products abundantly available while hanging up posters about respiratory etiquette would be helpful to patients and healthcare staff. Infection control practices for every department from the ER to the hospital to the lab should be review and monitored for compliance. One of these simple, yet effective components is the use of PPE. Another is stricter precaution for aerosol-generating procedures in which goggles and masks should be properly fitted and worn. (Photo from:

Since patient contact may also be infected, it is imperative that a screening protocol be in place for visitors. Children under the age of 16 should not be allowed into the hospital to visit, since the disease may affect them more adversely. Also those visitors showing any respiratory symptoms should not be allowed into the hospital.

The largest lesion learned with the SARS outbreak is that in our inter-connected world, global problems are local problems. One can travel the world in a day. Disease has never before been able to traverse the world so freely.

  1. Minnesota Department of Health.
  2. Hospital Authority: Hong Kong.
  3. SARS Expert Committee: “SARS in Hong Kong: from Experience to Action”.