April 7, 2003 Vol. VII, No. 14

Klotz Student Health Center Advises Caution for Asia Travel

The Klotz Student Health Center at Cal State Northridge is urging university students, faculty and staff to be cautious about planned travel to certain areas in Asia that are considered high-risk for a new strain of infection that is causing severe respiratory distress and pneumonia.

The illness known as SARS, severe acute respiratory syndrome, has not responded to antibiotics and most antiviral medicines. As of last week, the illness had infected more than 2,200 people in 16 countries and killed at least 78, although none of those deaths thus far have been in the United States.

Student Health Center Director Dr. Linda Reid Chassiakos said the center's Travel Clinic‹which offers counseling and immunizations to university community members traveling abroad‹is monitoring developments with the illness.

As of last week, blood tests to detect the illness were being developed by world health officials, but were not yet publicly available. However, the Student Health Center recommends that anyone who has recently traveled to a high-risk area for SARS and has symptoms of cough, respiratory distress and fever greater than 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit‹sometimes accompanied by headache, chills and body aches‹be evaluated by his or her medical provider.

Thus far in California, authorities have reported 19 suspected SARS cases, the most of any U.S. state, and are investigating another 12. Most of those who have become ill here had either traveled to Asia recently or come into close contact with travelers from Asia.

Seven of the California cases have been from Los Angeles County, but health officials said all seven of those people have recovered. For unknown reasons, the illness thus far is not spreading as rapidly in the United States or in California as it has in areas of Asia or in Toronto, Canada, where there is a related outbreak.

Last week, the World Health Organization (WHO) urged travelers to avoid Hong Kong and the Guangdong Province of China for all but essential travel‹the first time ever that an infectious disease outbreak has triggered such a travel warning. More broadly, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) urged postponing non-essential travel to mainland China, Hong Kong, Singapore and Vietnam.

As of last week, U.S. health officials had reported 100 suspected SARS cases in the United States coming from 28 states, with almost all those involved having recently traveled abroad to high-risk areas. Of those 100, 40 required hospitalization for more than a day and 13 remained hospitalized last week.

Health officials said the SARS germ, believed to be a variant of the virus that causes the common cold, appears to spread mostly through coughing or sneezing by an infected person. But it also is possible it might be spread more broadly by airborne transmission or through contact with surfaces like doorknobs. Good hand washing, and not spreading respiratory secretions, may help reduce its spread.

The latest updates on SARS can be found from the CDC at www.cdc.gov/ncidod/sars/, from the WHO at www.who.int/csr/sars/en/, or by calling the health center at (818) 677-3666. For health issues relating to travel, CSUN students, faculty and staff can contact nurse Laurie Martin, who coordinates the center's Travel Clinic, at (818) 677-3679.

The Student Health Center also has a videocassette of a Centers for Disease Control videoconference on SARS held last Friday available for viewing.

@csun | February 10, 2003 issue
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