IN NEW DEVELOPMENTS IN MEDICINE
There’s a mysterious new killer traveling from country to country, and the search is on to find and disarm this deadly foe. Making things more difficult for the hundreds of experts searching for clues, this killer is microscopic. SARS, or severe acute respiratory syndrome, began in Asia and is spreading to other parts of the world, including the United States. But how can you know if you’re at risk for SARS, and how can you protect yourself?
Are You at Risk?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (www.cdc.gov) reports that SARS is found primarily among people who have had direct close contact with an infected person, such as living with or taking care of an infected person.
Those who have traveled to Asia, where the disease is rampant and appears to be spreading more easily, are at risk and are advised to monitor their symptoms for 10 days upon returning home.
The first symptom of SARS is usually a fever (greater than 100.4 degrees) followed by a dry, nonproductive cough two to seven days later.
As with any infectious disease, you can protect yourself by washing your hands frequently with soap and water or alcohol-based hand rub.
For travelers, the best protection against SARS is to postpone any nonessential trips to China, Hong Kong, Singapore, and Hanoi. If you must travel, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends you do the following:
If your household is affected by SARS, the CDC recommends the following infection control during the illness and 10 days after the symptoms subside:
- make sure your vaccinations are up-to-date
- check with your health insurance provider and consider getting more coverage for medical evacuation in case you get sick abroad
- check with the U.S. Department of State (www.travel.state.gov) for a list of healthcare services in the country where you’re going
- have the infected person cover his or her mouth and nose with a tissue before sneezing and coughing
- have the infected person and/or other members of the family wear surgical masks
- use disposable gloves for any contact with body fluids from the SARS patient
- avoid sharing eating utensils, towels, and bedding with the person affected by SARS
- use common household cleaners to disinfect toilets, sinks, and other surfaces
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|The Spread of SARS|
SARS seems to be spread through droplet transmission. Droplet infection occurs when an infected person coughs or sneezes droplets into the air, and someone else breathes in those droplets.
Droplet Transmission vs. Airborne Transmission
Droplet transmission is the spread of viruses contained in relatively large respiratory droplets. Because of their large size, droplets travel only a short distance (usually 3 feet or less) before settling. Droplet transmission can occur directly when droplets are inhaled by another person or indirectly when droplets land on an object or surface and is touched by another person. Like SARS, common cold viruses are transmitted by droplets.
Airborne transmission refers to very small respiratory aerosol particles or dust, which can be breathed in by people. Unlike droplet transmission, airborne transmission can stay in the air and travel great distances. Diseases like influenza and the measles are transmitted in this way.
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