Responding to the spread of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), the World Health Organization last Wednesday added Toronto, Canada and Beijing and the northern Shanxi Province in China to its list of destinations to avoid for non-essential travel. The WHO previously had warned against travel to the Guangdong Province and Hong Kong in China.
In the United States, the federal Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has issued a broader travel advisory urging people to postpone nonessential travel to all of mainland China and Hong Kong, Singapore and Hanoi, Vietnam.
The CDC also issued its own travel alert for Toronto, Canada urging U.S. travelers there to observe precautions such as avoiding health care facilities treating SARS patients.
Meanwhile, the University of California and the California State University announced April 1718 that they had suspended their study abroad programs in Beijing. Eight CSU students, including one from CSUN, and a faculty member from Humboldt State were asked to leave Peking University, where a native faculty member reportedly has been diagnosed with SARS.
Worldwide as of last week, SARS, which has symptoms similar to pneumonia but has no known cure or vaccine, had been blamed for at least 274 deaths (a 6 percent fatality rate) among more than 4,600 people who have been sickened, mostly in Asia.
In California, through Wednesday, April 23, the state Department of Health Services reported 16 probable cases (those included in the U.S. tally), along with 37 suspect cases. Among those, Los Angeles County accounted for five probable cases and six suspected cases. California recently began diagnostic testing of suspected SARS cases.
SARS generally begins with a fever (greater than 100.4°F). The fever is sometimes associated with chills or other symptoms, including headache, a general feeling of discomfort and body aches. The fever can be accompanied by or progress into coughing and/or difficulty breathing.
Officials said the WHO's travel advisories will remain in effect for at least three weeks. The SARS virus, a new disease first recognized in late February and believed to have originated in China's Guangdong Province, has spread thus far via travelers to 25 countries on five continents, according to the WHO.
In China, officials announced last week that all public schools in Beijing would close starting last Thursday for two weeks through May 7 affecting 1.7 million children. During the week, China raised its number of SARS cases reported in Beijing from fewer than 40 to nearly 700 in just a few days.
Travelers to SARS-impacted areas are being advised to monitor their health for at least 10 days after returning home. If recent travelers become ill with fever and respiratory symptoms (such as cough or shortness of breath), they are being urged to visit a health care provider, but only after giving advance notice so precautions can be taken to prevent potential transmission.
The CDC says the primary way that SARS appears to spread is by close person-to-person contact. Most cases of SARS have involved people who cared for or lived with someone with SARS, or had direct contact with infectious material (such as respiratory secretions) from a person who has had SARS.
Dr. Linda Reid Chassiakos, director of CSUN's Klotz Student Health Center, said the center's Travel Clinic - which offers counseling and immunizations to university community members traveling abroad - is monitoring developments with the illness.
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.
Sars Cases and Deaths Region Cases Deaths Mainland China 2,601 115 Hong Kong 1,510 115 Singapore 195 19 Canada 140 15 Vietnam 63 5 Taiwan 41 0 United States 39 0 Source: WHO, April 25, 2003
@csun | April 28, 2003 issue
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