SARS Information Resources for Travelers
Since it first appeared in China's Guangdong Province, severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS, has spread to many other countries, including the United States. Epidemiologists, public health officials and other medical experts are working to investigate the possible cause of the disease and stop its spread.
Karen Angelichio, a registered nurse with the International Travel Clinic at Duke University Medical Center, says people should postpone any nonessential travel to affected areas in Asia if at all possible. These areas currently include mainland China and Hong Kong, Singapore and Hanoi, Vietnam.
Angelichio says if you cannot avoid traveling, be sure you take precautions.
"Keep your distance from people as much as possible," she says. "You can wear a mask, but standard masks won't offer much protection. Be aware of people around you who might be exhibiting symptoms such as coughing and sneezing and be very diligent about hand-washing. Wash your hands often or carry anti-bacterial hand gel or wipes with you and use them frequently."
The SARS situation is changing so rapidly that Angelichio urges anyone planning to travel to affected areas to check the latest updates and advisories frequently.
"The two best information resources that are updated on a daily basis right now are the Web sites for the Centers for Disease Control and the World Health Organization .
"Regardless of our technology and communications, it's very difficult to keep on top of this," adds Angelichio. "Every day there are new facts as far as routes of transmission, laboratory studies to help in diagnosis and possible new ideas about treatment. But there's really nothing definite yet except support of care for those who come down with the illness."
Angelichio has one more bit of practical advice for anyone making travel plans.
"Make sure you have your medical evacuation insurance. I talked with one of the vendors yesterday, and they will carry you out of an affected country if you are infected with SARS."