Travelers cautioned about SARS

Michelle Herrick

Michelle Herrick

Students who are traveling to Beijing and Shanxi Province, China or Toronto, Canada, this summer should “be advised” about Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), said state epidemiologist Lon Kightlinger.

“If they decide to go, they need to be responsible and monitor their health when they come back, so it doesn’t spread here like it did in those countries,” Kightlinger said.

SARS is a new disease that emerged in southeast China in November and has since infected over 5,000 people worldwide.

“No one has a clue if it is a virus, fungus, bacteria or toxin,” Kightlinger said.

It is spread through close contact with an infected person.

“The only way to treat it is through isolation or quarantine,” Kightlinger said.

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) alerted health employees in the United States on March 15. On April 7, hospitals in South Dakota partcipated in a SARS training session.

A Pennington County man was the first suspected SARS case in South Dakota on April 23. He had traveled to Vietnam.

“If you are living in Brookings and you come down with a fever, it doesn’t necessarily mean you have SARS,” Kightlinger said. “You can only have it if you have traveled to an infected country.”

Sean Herrboldt, a freshmen aviation major, said he’s a little worried about the spread of SARS in South Dakota.

“I’d be a lot more conscientious of ways to catch germs, like sharing drinks and stuff like that,” Herrboldt said.

Student Health Services is working with the Brookings Hospital and Clinic to implement policies ranging from educating the public to a possible outbreak.

“It is to have something in place in case we get a phone call asking, ‘Could I have it?'” said Brenda Andersen, associate director of student health services and nurse practioner.

Andersen will make posters and talk to people in residencehalls. She encourages students to visit the Student Health Services Web site or call the office for more information.

As of Monday, 321 people have died in 26 countries. No deaths have occurred in the United States. Minnesota has eight suspected SARS cases, but South Dakota’s other neighboring states-Iowa, Nebraska, Wyoming and North Dakota-have not reported any cases.