Information and guidelines about the recently identified illness called Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) have been made available to school administration and staff through the Montgomery County Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
Although no cases of the disease have been found in Maryland at this time, some suspect cases have been identified in the United States. As a precaution, HHS is providing information on symptoms and criteria for suspecting SARS, along with a reminder to practice routine infection control procedures.
Public health experts think that SARS is spread by close contact between people when someone who is infected with the disease coughs droplets into the air and someone else breathes them in. It is possible that SARS also can spread more broadly through the air or from touching objects that have been contaminated.
SARS is suspected when an individual meets the following criteria:
· Measured temperature of 100.5 degrees F (38 degrees C) or higher.
· One or more clinical findings of respiratory illness (e.g. cough, shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, hypoxia, or radiographic findings of either pneumonia or acute respiratory distress syndrome.
· Travel within 10 days of onset of symptoms to an area with documented or suspected community transmission of SARS (Mainland China, Hong Kong, Singapore, and Vietnam). This excludes areas with secondary cases limited to healthcare workers or direct household contacts.
· Close contact* within 10 days of onset of symptoms with either a person with a respiratory illness who traveled to a SARS area or a person known to be a suspected SARS case.
*Close contact is defined as having cared for, having lived with, or having direct contact with respiratory secretions and/or body fluids of a patient known to be a suspected SARS case.
Students and/or their household members who develop symptoms noted above or who have traveled to high risk areas within the last 10 days, or have been exposed to an individual with a documented or suspected case of SARS, are urged to seek medical evaluation as soon as possible.
In the school setting, routine infection control procedures are to be maintained. These include proper hand washing, glove use with direct contact with bodily fluids, covering mouth and nose with facial tissues when sneezing or coughing, and usual cleaning of the environment.
Further information is available on the web at the link below, or call the Center for Disease Control public response hotlines at 888-246-2675 (English), 888-246-2857 (Spanish) or 866-874-2646 (TTY).