Wed, May 07, 2003 - Page 8 News List

Steps to stop the spread of SARS

By Chwan-chuen King 金傳春

At the beginning of any outbreak of a communicable disease, people from all walks of life need to work closely together to stop its spread. Unfortunately, I saw on TV recently that a large number of people were still trying to sneak out from the basements of sealed-off hospitals where SARS cases were concentrated.

I would like to make these following suggestions:

One, we know from the painful experience of SARS-affected hospitals in Canada and other countries that people who visit patients there can become "spreaders." Salesmen, delivery people, friends and relatives of patients and others who have been to the affected hospitals, therefore, should not go to other hospitals, public venues or crowded places. Nor should they use public transport. When they take taxis, they should keep the windows open.

The potential for the virus to spread should be kept to a minimum by restrictions on the movement of even those who are suffering from relatively light symptoms and who may have contracted only small amounts of the virus.

Two, all hospitals and companies that employ people who frequently go to SARS-affected areas should be on alert, given that SARS infections and fatalities are still increasing around the world. People who have body temperatures above 37.5?C and respiratory symptoms or watery stools should receive medical treatment as soon as possible.

Three, all international conferences, trade exhibitions and major cultural events should be postponed for two months to reduce the risk of transmission in crowds. This should quickly reduce the scope of the SARS epidemic.

Four, if one meets, in public or in the workplace, a patient who is coughing continuously, one should put on a mask. One should also take the patient's name and telephone number, and advise him or her to see a doctor as soon as possible to ensure early recovery. In other words, people can play an important role at the vanguard of epidemic control.

Five, since the slightest indiscretion could lead to mass infections in communities, all toilets at hospitals and public venues should be sterilized more frequently than usual over the next two to three weeks.

Six, Internet programs should be coordinated within a week to teach health care workers about nosocomial SARS infection control, prevention methods and case studies of successful or failed examples of infection control in hospitals.

Seven, Cabinet agencies should coordinate with county commissioners and city mayors to make SARS prevention a top priority and actively discuss a range of public policy options in preparation for emergency needs.

Eight, scholars from the Infectious Diseases Society, the Taiwan Society of Microbiology and the Taiwan Public Health Association should be invited to attend teleconferences in an effort to plan the best possible strategies for SARS prevention.

Nine, the appropriate government leaders should set up SARS prevention command centers. Over the next three weeks, people should try not to go to crowded places in order to minimize the possibility of a "superspreader" disseminating the SARS virus in the community.

The epidemic prevention net has been broken. But as long as we bravely face up to the challenges, quickly reflect on our mistakes and review where improvements are needed, we can turn the SARS crisis into an opportunity to earn global respect

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