What You Need to Know About Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) - Student Health Center

(Published in January 2004 by the Student Health Center at Ohlone College.)

Additional information about SARS is available on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website.

What is SARS?

Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) is a respiratory illness that has recently been reported in Asia, North America, and Europe. It is caused by a previously unrecognized coronavirus, and begins with a fever greater than 100.4 degrees (greater than 38.0 degrees Celsius). Other symptoms may include headache, an overall feeling of discomfort, body aches, and mild respiratory symptoms. After 2 to 7 days, SARS patients may develop a dry cough and have trouble breathing. In some cases the illness rapidly worsens, requiring mechanical ventilation. The overall death rate among those infected thus far approaches 8%.

How does SARS spread?

The primary way that SARS appears to spread is by close person-to-person contact. Most cases of SARS have involved people who cared for or lived with someone with SARS, or had direct contact with infectious material (for example, respiratory secretions) from a person who has SARS. Potential ways in which SARS can be spread include touching the skin of other people or objects that are contaminated with infectious droplets and then touching your eye(s), nose, or mouth. This can happen when someone who is sick with SARS coughs or sneezes droplets onto themselves, other people, or nearby surfaces. It also is possible that SARS can be spread more broadly through the air or by other ways that are currently not known.

Who is at risk for SARS?

Most of the U.S. cases of SARS have occurred among travelers returned to the United States from other parts of the world with SARS. There have been very few cases resulting from spread to close contacts such as family members and health care workers.

Should we be concerned about SARS here at Ohlone?

Although there have not been any cases of SARS identified at Ohlone thus far, the disease is of concern to college officials because of the high volume of faculty, students,and visitors traveling to and from SARS-affected areas and because of the potential for rapid transmission in a campus setting. Because SARS has been controlled best in areas with strong and immediate public health efforts, the Ohlone Student Health Center has formed an alliance with Washington Hopsital and has been in contact with Alameda County Health Department to formulate guidelines in the event Ohlone should have a case of SARS. Guidelines have been developed and are in place at the Student Health Center and are available to any staff or faculty person to provide education about SARS and immediate intervention if there is a suspected case of SARS.

How can I avoid getting SARS?

Avoid non-essential travel to areas experiencing SARS disease, which are designated by a Travel Advisory. Other areas experiencing SARS may be under a Travel Alert, meaning that while travelers should take precautions, the risk for the individual traveler is felt to be definable and limited.