WHO instructs India to keep lens on tourist for SARS-like virus
As instructed by the WHO, India is keeping a close watch on incoming tourists, fearing transmission of a new respiratory virus that belongs to the same family as the deadly Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).
The WHO has instructed member countries, under the international health regulations, against screening this virus at point of entry. The deadline was originally till the end of 2012, which has been extended by a year. The organization encourages all member states to continue their surveillance for Severe Acute Respiratory Infections (SARI) and is currently reviewing the case definition and other guidance related to the novel SARS-coronavirus.
India has 25 airports, 12 ports and 7 international land borders catering to international traffic. These can be possible points through which dangerous pathogens can be brought by international passengers. Health units, however, exist only at 21 points most of which were established way back in 1950.
The 12th Five Year Plan seeks to establish health surveillance units, isolation wards and quarantine facilities in 23 additional airports, ports and land borders.
What is SARS?
- Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS)
- A serious form of pneumonia
- caused by a member of the coronavirus family of viruses (the same family that can cause the common cold), so it is also called SARS-CoV.
- It infects both humans and animals (livestock, birds, etc.).
- It had spread like a pandemic in Hong Kong in March 2003, and from there it transmitted to several other countries.
SARS is a dramatic example of how quickly world travel can spread a disease.
How SARS spreads?
When someone with SARS coughs or sneezes, infected droplets spray into the air. One can catch the SARS virus if you breathe in or touch these particles. The SARS virus may live on hands, tissues, and other surfaces for up to 6 hours in these droplets and up to 3 hours after the droplets have dried. Live virus has even been found in the stool of people with SARS, where it has been shown to live for up to 4 days. The virus may be able to live for months or years when the temperature is below freezing.
It includes flu-like symptoms such as fever, muscle pain, headaches, diarrhea, sore throat, runny nose, malaise, and myalgia (muscle pain), dry cough, shortness of breath, and an upper respiratory tract infection.
People with active symptoms of illness are contagious.
- There is no cure or preventive vaccine available currently. The treatment is only supportive.
- Antibiotics are ineffective, as SARS is a viral disease.
- If a person is suspected of having SARS, they should be kept isolated in the hospital.
- Reducing contact with people who have SARS
- Hand hygiene is the most important, thus Wash hands or clean them with an alcohol-based instant hand sanitizer.
- Avoid travel to places where there is an uncontrolled SARS outbreak.
- Do not share food, drink, or utensils.