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SARS: Tips for Travellers

As with all infectious illnesses, the first line of defence is careful and frequent hand hygiene - most cases of SARS have involved persons who cared for or lived with someone with SARS or had direct contact with infectious material (e.g., respiratory secretions) from a person with SARS.

The risk of transmission of SARS on aeroplanes and boats is low and if a person with possible SARS becomes ill while on an aeroplane the CDC try to gather information from fellow travellers on the flight with help from state and local health authorities - as a precaution these fellow travellers are then monitored for 10 days for the development of SARS-like symptoms.

Quarantine officials are notified about potential SARS cases on an aeroplanes or ships by the captain of the ship or plane and someone suspected of having SARS is removed from the ship or plane by port health authorities who may refer the passenger to a local health authority for assessment and care.

The onward travel of healthy passengers in the event that a passenger or crew member is suspected of having SARS is not usually restricted but all passengers and crew members exposed to SARS are requested to provide locating information and are advised to seek medical attention if they develop SARS-like symptoms.

Quarantine officials arrange for appropriate medical assistance, including medical isolation, to be available when the airplane lands or the ship docks, if a passenger is suspected of having SARS - federal, state, and local governments have the authority to compel the isolation of sick persons in order to protect the public.

The SARS epidemic demonstrated the importance of a worldwide surveillance and response capacity to address emerging microbial threats by means of timely reporting, rapid communication, and has stressed the importance of international collaboration and the need for partnerships among clinical, laboratory, public health, and veterinary communities.

Lessons learned from the SARS epidemic included the need for strong political leadership at the highest levels to mobilize entire societies, speed of action, improved coordination between national and district levels in countries with federal systems, increased investment in public health, and updated legislation pertaining to surveillance, isolation, and quarantine measures - the need was also recognised for improved infection control in health care and long-term care facilities, and for screening measures at borders to minimize the risk of imported cases and at international airports to minimize the risk of exported cases.

Currently, there is no known SARS transmission anywhere in the world, the most recent human cases of SARS-CoV infection were reported in China in April 2004 in an outbreak resulting from laboratory-acquired infections.

The CDC and the WHO continue to monitor the SARS situation globally and work with other federal agencies, state and local health departments, and healthcare organizations to plan for rapid recognition and response if person-to-person transmission of SARS-CoV recurs.


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Last Updated: Jul 14, 2009

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