It's a SARious thing

To be honest, a lot of what has been said about SARS and what people are saying and doing about it boils down to one simple thing - "we don't know".

Top of the list of "we don't know"'s is how can you tell if a person has SARS or not. At the moment, people are limited to taking temperatures and checking for sore throats. However, symptoms don't appear for up to 10 days, so you don't really know.

Next on the "we don't know" list is how contagious it is. WHO have reported that the main method of transmission is through fluid droplets (e.g. when someone coughs at you) but they have also shown that the virus can survive on plastic surfaces for up to 24 hours. They don't think that masks are effective, though - I think most people wear one because they feel as if they're doing something about it.

The methods used to determine if you have SARS differ from one country to another. Cambodia, Vietnam and Korea just ask you to fill in a form, which you duly tick 'no' on all sections, although Vietnam also had a doctor checking you visually before you could leave the country. Mongolia utilises a a man in a spacesuit asking you to fill in forms (but nobody else wears one). On the Mongolian-Russian border, a very large woman sticks thermometers under your armpit and looks down your throat. I wasn't arguing with her.

At the end of the day, the danger of contagion is actually very small, and although the countries are right in doing what they're are doing, I am skeptical if most of them are effective enough. The most reliable way would be to ban entry to anyone who has been in a SARS-affected region, and although it is draconian, it is probably the only sure-fire way to be safe.


posted on Friday, May 30, 2003 - permalink
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