Consequences of SARS revealed

ic occur, it will be far more damaging than SARS.

Paul Tambyah recounts his experience of dealing with SARS on the wards of a Singapore hospital. Tambyah describes how the decision to designate the Tan Tock Seng Hospital as Singapore's sole dedicated SARS hospital actually helped the disease spread to four of the countries five major hospitals, because many patients rapidly discharged to other hospitals to clear beds were already incubating the SARS virus. One patient, a 63-year-old vegetable seller admitted with heart failure, was responsible for infecting an entire shift of nurses with SARS, and infections of several of his work colleagues led to closure to Singapore's largest wholesale vegetable market and devastation of the local fresh food industry.

An editorial in the same issue of The Lancet Infectious Diseases notes that one of the most striking characteristics of the SARS epidemic was that the great majority of infections--more than 80%--were acquired in hospital. The editorial also questions the value of quarantine as a control measure and of members of the public wearing surgical masks to protect themselves from infection: "An initial delay, followed by misinformation that the virus was airborne, created unnecessary panic. Images of people wearing surgical masks became the symbol of SARS, even though clinical reports suggested that SARS was spread only by close contact requiring the inhalation of droplets".


Contact: Joe Santangelo

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