ABC Guide to Travel Health - Vaccines, Vaccinations

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Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) is caused by a coronavirus, which was identified in 2003. Infection with this virus causes initial flu-like symptoms, including fever, exhaustion, muscle aches and pains, headache, shivering, cough and shortness of breath, that may quickly result in respiratory distress and death. The coronavirus is thought to be an animal virus from an as yet unknown animal reservoir. An epidemic of SARS affected 26 countries and resulted in over 8,000 cases in 2003. Since then, a small number of cases have occurred as a result of laboratory accidents or through animal-to-human transmission.43

Human transmission is primarily from person-to-person. SARS is usually spread when people with symptomatic SARS cough or sneeze expelling infected respiratory secretions, either directly onto the mucus membranes (eyes, nose or mouth) of other people or onto nearby surfaces on which the virus may persist for up to several days.

Geographical distribution43
The distribution is based on the 2002-2003 epidemic during which the disease appeared first in the Guangdong province of southern China . This area is considered as a potential zone of re-emergence of SARS. Other countries/areas in which human-to-human transmission occurred following importation were Hong Kong and Taiwan in China , Toronto in Canada , Singapore, and Hanoï in Viet Nam. In other countries, imported cases did not lead to local outbreaks.

Risk for travellers43,44
Currently, no areas of the world are reporting person-to-person transmission of SARS, but it is possible that it could return. Please check the World Health Organization website for updates

Precautions and prevention44

  • Simple infection control techniques, such as frequent hand washing, may help prevent the spread of the disease.
  • Routine use of masks or other personal protective equipment while in public areas is not generally recommended.

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