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World Health Organization issues emergency travel advisory

During the past week the World Health Organisation (WHO) has received reports of more than 150 new suspected…

During the past week the World Health Organisation (WHO) has received reports of more than 150 new suspected cases of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), an atypical pneumonia for which cause has not yet been determined.



The WHO has said it has received reports to date from Canada, China, Hong Kong (Special Administrative Region of China), Indonesia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam.



Due to the spread of SARS to several countries in a short period of time, the World Health Organization today has issued emergency guidance for travellers and airlines.



This syndrome, SARS, is now a worldwide health threat, said Dr. Gro Harlem Brundtland, Director General of the World Health Organization. The world needs to work together to find its cause, cure the sick, and stop its spread.



There is presently no recommendation for people to restrict travel to any destination. However in response to enquiries from governments, airlines, physicians and travellers, WHO is now offering guidance for travellers, airline crew and airlines. The exact nature of the infection is still under investigation and this guidance is based on the early information available to WHO.



All travellers should be aware of main symptoms and signs of SARS which include:


  • high fever (>38oC)


AND


  • one or more respiratory symptoms including cough, shortness of breath, difficulty breathing


AND one or more of the following:


  • close contact with a person who has been diagnosed with SARS

  • recent history of travel to areas reporting cases of SARS.


The WHO has said that in the unlikely event of a traveller experiencing this combination of symptoms they should seek medical attention and ensure that information about their recent travel is passed on to the health care staff. Any traveller who develops these symptoms is advised not to undertake further travel until they have recovered.



Airlines have also been asked for assistance and if a passenger or crew member meeting the criteria above travel on a flight, the aircraft should alert the destination airport. On arrival the sick passenger should be referred to airport health authorities for assessment and management. The aircraft passengers and crew should also be informed of the person`s status as a suspect case of SARS.



The passengers and crew should provide all contact details for the subsequent 14 days to the airport health authorities. There are currently no indications to restrict the onward travel of healthy passengers, but all passengers and crew should be advised to seek medical attention if they develop the symptoms highlighted above.



In the absence of specific information regarding the nature of the organism causing this illness, the WHO cannot recommend specific measures that could be applied to aircraft.

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