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SARS: What Is It? What's Causing It? What Should You Do?

Preventing & Treating SARS

What Do SARS Sufferers Experience?

Within 10 days of exposure, the illness usually begins with a fever of 100.5 F or greater. The victim also may have chills, headache, body aches and some breathing problems.

Between two and seven days after SARS presents, patients experience a dry cough and difficulty breathing. In 10 percent to 20 percent of the cases, patients have needed a ventilator for oxygen.

How Is SARS Treated?

The CDC recommends that health-care professionals treat SARS patients in the same way they would treat someone with an unknown type of pneumonia.

There have been different treatment approaches used throughout the affected countries, and the CDC is in constant communication with officials and health-care workers there.

Current treatment approaches have included antiviral medications as well as antibiotics and steroids to help the respiratory system. Please be assured that the majority of patients who have been suspected of having SARS have done well.

So ... What Should You Do About SARS?

First off, please don't panic if someone coughs or sneezes in the mall, a restaurant or any other public place you may be in.

It's important to realize that our country - especially in an age of bioterrorism preparedness - has a very up-to-date and widespread disease-monitoring system.

My office has had calls asking if it's OK to eat at a Chinese restaurant, or to go to an airport where travelers from the Far East may be present. The answer to both questions is: "Yes, it's OK." SARS isn't spread by food, nor does it seem to affect people who have just casually walked by an infected person.

Be assured: In the event of a local health concern, the CDC will issue a medical alert as well as a health advisory. For the latest and most up-to-date information about SARS, please go to the CDC Web site.

Copyright 2003, Dr. Rob Danoff

Robert Danoff, D.O., M.S., is a family physician. He is program director of Family Practice Residency Frankford Hospitals, Jefferson Health System, Philadelphia, Pa. He also is a medical correspondent for The Comcast Network, CN8, contributing writer to the New York Times and writes a weekly medical column for the Bucks Courier Times, Bucks County Pa.

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