How to Prevent SARS

Two Parts:Inhibiting Transmission of SARS at HomeAvoiding Contamination in Public

Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, also called SARS, is a viral respiratory infection caused by a coronavirus, which is a type of virus that can infect both humans and animals.[1] SARS originated in China in 2002 and spread across the world within a few months, demonstrating how quickly viruses can be transmitted among the increasingly mobile global population.[2] International health experts were able to quickly contain the spread of SARS and there has been no known transmission anywhere in the world since 2004.[3] SARS is not a prevalent illness; once people implemented more effective methods of handling and controlling wild animals that were to be used as food for people, SARS became a much smaller problem.[4] Many of the steps outlined below are not necessary because SARS has been well-handled and is no longer very prevalent. Nevertheless, they are good health practices, and it’s good to know that by taking certain precautions in the event of another outbreak, you may be able to prevent yourself or someone else from getting SARS.[5]

Part 1
Inhibiting Transmission of SARS at Home

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    Clean your hands frequently. One of the most effective ways to prevent SARS is thorough and frequent hand-washing.[6] This minimizes the spread of the virus from surfaces that many—or infected-- people touch.[7]
    • Use a mild soap and hot water and wash your hands in warm water for at least 20 seconds.[8]
    • Use a hand sanitizer of at least 60% alcohol if soap and water are not available.[9]
    • Make sure to wash your hands even after you’ve taken off disposable gloves.[10]
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    Put on disposable gloves. If there is a chance that you may come into contact with someone who has SARS, or their body fluids or feces, wear disposable gloves. This can help ensure that you don’t accidentally infect yourself.[11]
    • You can use surgical-type gloves to prevent contamination.[12]
    • Make sure to check for any rips or punctures before you put on the gloves.[13]
    • Dispose of the gloves after each use in a lined wastebasket. Never wash or reuse gloves.[14]
    • You can get disposable gloves at many pharmacies and most medical supply stores.
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    Cover your nose and mouth with a surgical mask. Typically, a person with SARS will be hospitalized and isolated, with no visitors allowed except for the few hospital staff caring for them. If you are in the same room as a person with SARS, wear a surgical mask. This can help minimize your risk of inhaling the virus.[15]
    • There is some evidence that in addition to wearing a surgical mask, wearing glasses may also a certain amount of protection against SARS.[16]
    • You may want to purchase an N95 particulate respirator as your surgical mask. Although there is varying information on the type of surgical mask with which you can protect yourself from respiratory viruses, the N95 is specifically designed to protect against large droplets and smaller respiratory particles.[17]
    • Put the mask in front of your mouth and nose. Secure the mask to your face with the pointer finger and thumb of your dominant hand. Push the mask on to your face until you are sure there is no space between your face and the mask.
    • Pull the garter than ensures your mask will stay on your face. This should be found on the top of the mask. Stretch the garter over your head and secure it on the back of your head.
    • You can purchase surgical masks at many pharmacies and most medical supply stores.
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    Wash shared personal items. It’s vital to wash any personal items shared with SARS patients. From utensils to bedding and clothing, making sure these items are properly washed can help minimize the risk of contracting the disease.[18]
    • You should not share clothing, towels, or bedding with a SARS patient. However, wash any laundry in a washing machine with warm or hot water and detergent. You can also consider adding some bleach to the load.[19]
    • Make sure to wear gloves when handling any soiled garments.[20]
    • You should not share eating utensils with an infected person, but you also don’t need to separate utensils for use by the patient. You can wash any dishes and eating utensils the infected person has used in a dishwasher or by hand with soap and hot water.[21]
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    Bag infected waste separately. It may help to separate infected waste into a separate bag or container from your wastebasket. You can then close the bag with the infected waste and place it in your regular wastebasket.[22]
    • This measure can help ensure that animals, small children, or other people don’t accidentally come in contact with infected waste.[23]
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    Disinfect shared surfaces and spaces often. The SARS virus spreads easily in places such as bathrooms or on kitchen surfaces. Cleaning and disinfecting these spaces frequently may help prevent spreading the virus.[24]
    • Any surface touched by an infected person—such as the toilet or bathroom sink—should be cleaned and disinfected as often as possible, even after each use if possible.[25]
    • You can use anti-septic or anti-bacterial cleansers or a bleach mixture to disinfect surfaces.[26]
    • Make sure to wear gloves when you clean and throw them away after use.[27]
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    Limit the number of persons in the household. If a person in your home is infected with SARS, they will require isolation for at least 10 days. During this period, limit the number of people in your home as much as possible. This can minimize the risk of any family getting the virus or transmitting to the outside world.[28]
    • Patients should only leave the home for routine medical treatment.[29] You may also want to separate the person from family members as much as possible.[30]
    • You can ask friends or family members to host for any person who has no symptoms of SARS if possible.[31]

Part 2
Avoiding Contamination in Public

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    Avoid travel to areas of an outbreak if possible. One of most effective ways to help prevent SARS is to avoid travel to any locality, state, or country that has reported an outbreak. If you have travel plans to any of these areas, contact your respective travel company and ask them if they have contingency plans for travel to these areas or if they will let you rebook to someplace else.
    • The United States Department of State, the Centers for Disease Control, and the World Health Organization will alert the public about any outbreaks, where they are, and if you should avoid travel to these areas. If you are traveling, check any of these websites or contact your travel agent to inquire about travel restrictions.
    • If you are traveling to remote areas, you can take precautionary steps at home, such as buying a surgical mask or hand sanitizer, to help minimize your risk in areas where hygiene standards may not be high.
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    Stay away from crowded spaces. SARS is highly contagious and spreads most easily in places where crowds congregate such as public transportation. Avoiding crowded spaces can help minimize your risk of contracting the virus.[32]
    • SARS is spread through close contact with an infected person. If someone with SARS sneezes or coughs, they could spread the disease through the transmission of their infected respiratory droplets.
    • Make sure to wash or sanitize your hands after touching anything in crowded spaces, such as handles in public transportation, doorknobs, telephones, or elevator buttons. You cannot sanitize yourself against everything, but it is also typically good to be exposed to germs in general.
    • You might want to consider wearing a surgical mask or N95 mask in crowded spaces or large urban areas.
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    Continue to observe good personal hygiene. Just as you would in your home, make sure to practice good hygiene when you are out in public. Washing your hands and covering your mouth and nose when sneezing or coughing can go far in minimize your risk of getting SARS or even infecting others.[33]
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    Carry hand sanitizer with you. In some cases, it might be difficult to find a place to wash your hands after coming in contact with people who may have SARS or surfaces that many people have touched. Carrying hand sanitizer with you can help ensure that you reduce the risk of contaminating yourself after touching something.[34]
    • Make sure the hand sanitizer is at least 60% alcohol.[35]
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    Seek medical help if you exhibit symptoms. If you have been exposed to SARS or were in area where there is a SARS outbreak and begin to experience symptoms of the virus, seek medical help immediately. You may require being isolated, but this can also help ensure your safety and health as well as that of others.
    • The symptoms of SARS are: systemic illness marked by the onset of fever higher than 38 degrees C (100.4 degrees F); head and body aches; dry cough; and shortness of breath.[36]
    • Be aware that in spite of concerted international efforts, there is still no effective cure for SARS. Antibiotics won’t work against SARS because it is a virus, and scientists and doctors haven’t demonstrated any benefit, either.[37]
    • When someone is treated for SARS, doctors try to stop the virus from replicating in the body and administer medicine to help do this. They also focus a lot on caring for a person's symptoms.
    • Very young and very old people are more likely to die from SARS, because their immune systems are not as robust as others'.

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Categories: Infectious Diseases | Health