Skip to comments.All You Need To Know About SARS
Posted on 03/31/2003 3:53:59 PM PST by blam
All you need to know about SARS
March 31 2003 at 02:13PM
Hong Kong - A highly contagious respiratory virus spreading across the world has killed 59 people and infected more than 1 600 others, mainly in Asia.
Here are facts about severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), an atypical type of pneumonia:
What is it?
Scientists say SARS is caused by a new virus from the family of coronaviruses, which also causes the common cold.
The United States Centre for Disease Control and Prevention has confirmed that the virus is the primary causative agent, but experts say much laboratory work still needs to be done to pinpoint its exact characteristics. Development of a vaccine will take years.
The World Health Organisation says the disease originated in China's southern province of Guangdong, before spreading to Hong Kong, where it was then carried to Vietnam, Singapore and Canada. Other cases later surfaced in the United States, France, Britain, Taiwan and Germany.
Hong Kong and WHO scientists say the strain likely originated from animals.
Health experts in Hong Kong have ruled out any association with influenza A and B viruses, and also the H5N1 bird-flu virus which jumped the species barrier and killed six people in the territory in 1997, and one man in February.
SARS is a type of atypical pneumonia, which is usually caused by viruses, such as influenza viruses, adeno-virus and other respiratory viruses, according to Hong Kong health officials.
Atypical pneumonia can also be caused by organisms such as legionella, although that is rare in Hong Kong.
WHO officials say there is no indication that SARS is linked to bioterrorism.
What are the symptoms?
The WHO says the main symptoms of SARS are high fever (over 38°C), a dry cough, shortness of breath or breathing difficulties. Changes in chest X-rays, which are indicative of pneumonia, also occur. SARS may be associated with other symptoms, including chills, headache, muscular stiffness, loss of appetite, confusion, rash and diarrhoea.
Health experts say the disease has an incubation period of between two and seven days - with three to five days being more common - before victims start showing flu-like symptoms.
How dangerous is it?
The mortality rate appears to be between three to five percent. In Hong Kong, at least, those who are infected invariably develop severe pneumonia, which can cause numerous complications.
Conditions of victims deteriorate very quickly, in as short a period as five days.
How are patients treated?
There is currently no specific cure for the disease. But doctors worldwide have been treating it with ribavirin - an anti-viral drug - and steroids. Doctors say if treated early most patients without other serious illnesses can recover.
How does it spread?
The WHO and Hong Kong experts say the virus spreads through droplets by sneezing or coughing and such direct infection can usually happen within a radius of about one metre.
The virus can also spread indirectly as it can survive outside of the human body for three to six hours. Contact with any object that is tainted by droplets containing the virus could lead to infection if a person then touches their eyes, nose or mouth.
Health experts have not ruled out that it could be airborne, which infinitely raises the contagious nature of the virus and would make it far harder to contain.
How fast does it spread?
The WHO says SARS appears to be less infectious than influenza, and is not highly contagious when protective measures are used. Hong Kong's health chief has said the virus is highly infectious, but can be killed by a solution of common household bleach.
How does the virus travel globally?
The WHO says the speed of international travel creates a risk that cases can rapidly spread around the world.
When an infected person travels, he can spread the virus to other passengers on his flight and also to people at his destination. Authorities around Asia are hunting for passengers who were on about half a dozen flights as they fear that these passengers have been exposed.
Who is most likely to be infected?
Hong Kong experts say the virus is highly concentrated in discharges such as mucous or phlegm when the victim is very sick and in need of urgent medical care. Therefore, the virus has tended to spread primarily to health care professionals treating victims or close family members of victims.
How should infected patients be managed?
The WHO says patients should be placed in an isolation unit. Health care workers and visitors should wear efficient filter masks, goggles, aprons, head covers, and gloves when in close contact with the patient.
Is it safe to travel?
The WHO has not recommended restricting travel to any destination in the world. However, all travellers should be aware of the main symptoms and signs of SARS. People who have these symptoms and have been in close contact with a person who has been diagnosed with SARS, or have a recent history of travel to areas where cases of SARS have been spreading, should seek medical attention and inform health care staff of recent travel.
Travellers who develop these symptoms are advised not to undertake further travel until fully recovered.
What kind of critters. Monkeys? Pigs? Cats or dogs?
For years I had my dog given the annual three-in-one shot for CORONA, distemper and parvo.
I read on a thread a few weeks ago that it was suspected to be a variation of an avian (bird) strain, and ducks (seriously) were being looked at.
Apparently the markets in these Asian countries lack for hygeine, and carcasses are carelessly laid about...
This can't be right, didn't some 180 people in one apartment complex just come down with it? That would make it far more like casual contact is spreading it. IMHO
Mine prefers Corona, salt and lime.
If the doctor who is treating this is acting like it's a Biolevel 4 agent .... if they aren't already, why aren't ALL these folks in quarantine ??
I am growing suspicious. Why did this apartment building-complex get hit so hard, yet people flew on airplanes with people very ill with this sickness and only a few seem to have gotten ill. Any ideas out there on why this may be the case?
By Min Lee, AP
31 March 2003
Masked police used metal barricades and tape to seal off a Hong Kong apartment building quarantined today after 107 residents came down with a mystery disease that has thrown Hong Kong into crisis.
Workers piled up supplies of rice and toilet paper to be loaded into the Amoy Gardens apartment complex, where more than 240 people were ordered to stay put for 10 days.
One woman cooped up inside a 482-square-foot apartment with her husband and three children said she supported the quarantine, although her daughter missed a school exam and their lunch was brought in late.
"If they let people out, they could spread the disease," Anna Yuen told The Associated Press by telephone. "This is just the first day. It's not that bad."
Yuen, a customer services representative, said she had been taking the stairs to reach her fourth floor apartment since Wednesday, out of fears the disease could spread in the elevator.
A poultry shop employee who works nearby said his mother-in-law lives in Block E and was stuck inside "in a rotten mood." Danny Chow admitted he, too, was nervous about the outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS, that has killed at least 59 people globally, 13 of them in Hong Kong.
"Even if you don't have it, you feel like you do," Chow said. "I feel a lot of psychological pressure."
One resident of Block E complained over the telephone to Cable TV that the isolation order had come too suddenly - as Hong Kong's took its most drastic step yet to try to contain SARS.
The man, who did not identify himself, said he would spend his time surfing the Internet, playing video games and reading books in the confines of Block E, a congested 33-story building in Hong Kong's middle-class Kowloon Bay neighborhood.
Health officials said Monday that 92 new cases of SARS were found at Amoy Gardens, for 213 total in the complex. About half of the cases are from Block E. The other 18 buildings in Amoy Gardens have not been sealed off.
Some criticized Hong Kong for refusing to repay people for time they will miss at work.
"I think officials should give me money as compensation," a resident who identified himself as Mr. Tam said on radio RTHK.
One woman said she thought people in jail probably got better treatment.
"They only gave me a loaf of white bread," said the woman, identifying herself to TVB television as Ms. Lam. "Have they thought about our feelings? I haven't been jailed before, but I understand that prisoners even get newspapers to read."
Anyone who leaves Block E without official permission could be fined or jailed, said the director of health, Dr. Margaret Chan, who ordered the isolation quarantine in the wee hours.
Many residents had already fled in fear, stirring worries that if they are sick they could spread the disease further in the community.
"Who knows who has it and who doesn't?" said one woman, M.L. Wong, who was wearing a mask - like thousands of others in Hong Kong - as she walked through the Wanchai district on Monday morning.
One resident from the adjacent Block F said her family was planning to move to a friend's house later Monday.
"I am not panicking, but my family members are very worried about getting infected," said Sonia Lo, a 30-year-old who has taken this week off from her job as a bank clerk.
"We haven't been out often these days and very few people are walking along the streets outside," Lo told the AP by telephone. "It's very different from normal days when the street is packed with people."
Housewife Leung Pik-chu, from another Amoy Gardens building, said leaving is not an option.
"Where can I move?" Leung asked. "Everyone is afraid of me."
Here's an article that suggests a bovine virus.
Virus may have crossed species barrier [ SARS ]
The deadly respiratory ailment SARS may have spread to humans from cattle.... some researchers say looks remarkably like bovine coronavirus. In cattle, the common disease is known as "shipping fever."
Most airliners are ventilated in such a way that air enters at the front and is exhausted out near the back of the cabin. So, if a SARS carrier is seated near the back of the plane and doesn't get up in flight, most of his germs will flow out the back of the plane. If, OTOH, the SARS carrier is in 1st class, then his germs flow aft and contact everyone else sitting behind him. If someone breathes in enough virus particles (exact amount unknown right now) then they get SARS.
Bottom line: it all depends on air flow and seating arrangments.