AUT SARS Frequently Asked Questions at 22 May 2003 Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) Is SARS an Asian disease? No. It is a respiratory disease which does not recognise nationality or ethnicity. Although first identified in parts of Asia, all nationalities are potentially susceptible to SARS. There are many parts of Asia that do not have SARS, and these countries are taking the same precautions as the rest of the world to control the spread. Have any international students had SARS? There is no evidence of any international students in NZ having had SARS up to this time. There is also no evidence of international students having SARS in Australia, Great Britain, Canada or the USA, all of whom have large numbers of international students from potential SARS areas. SARS among young people even in the most affected regions is very rare, and the probability of recovery is excellent. SARS seems to be more serious in older people and those who have other medical conditions such as diabetes. Most cases have been in health care workers and family members who have had in close contact with SARS patients. Close contact means handling respiratory secretions or other body fluids of an infected person. Some parents are concerned about their children being in a class with international students in case they get SARS. Is this justified? SARS does not appear to be transmitted until the person is obviously sick. There is no evidence to date that any pupil is in any danger from SARS in a New Zealand classroom. Students who have been in China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore or the Philippines within the last 10 days and who feel unwell should avoid contact with other people and phone a doctor. Should students be going home to the affected areas during the holidays? People should postpone non-essential travel to the most affected areas (Level 1 areas) and consider postponing non-essential travel to Level 2 areas until further notice. If your travel is essential and/or you decide to continue with your travel plans you should recognise that travel is always at your own risk. Also, your decision to travel to affected areas increases the risk of infection being brought back to your community. Make sure you keep yourself updated on the spread of SARS in the most affected areas. Travel advice may change as new information becomes available. The latest travel advice will be made available through media reports, airlines, the Ministry of Health website and the 0800 number (0800 0800 80). Should families of graduating students travel from the most affected areas to New Zealand for these ceremonies? New Zealand authorities are not preventing anyone from coming to New Zealand from the most affected areas. The World Health Organization has recommended all passengers departing from the most affected areas be screened for illness and possible contact with SARS patients. Unwell passengers may be advised to defer their travel. Airlines have protocols to follow if a passenger develops symptoms in transit. People who become unwell in flight may need to be assessed by health authorities on arrival and may not be able to proceed with onward travel. People from affected areas who become sick while in New Zealand should avoid contact with other people and phone a doctor. Should students who go home to the most affected areas for holidays be isolated on their return to New Zealand? No. Such measures are not considered justified at the present time. Should teachers wear masks while teaching students who have returned from travelling to the most affected areas? No. § Teachers of students from the affected areas are NOT at risk of SARS if the students are well. § Teaching staff do NOT need to wear face masks when teaching students who have recently arrived or returned from the affected areas § Specific questions on national or individual education policies about the management of SARS in early childhood centers, schools, secondary schools, or tertiary institutions should be referred to the Ministry of Education (04 463 8000) or refer to the Ministry of Education website www.minedu.govt.nz Should teachers require students to wear masks in class when they have returned from travelling to the most affected areas? No. You are very unlikely to get SARS from someone who does not have obvious symptoms such as cough and fever. Isolation / quarantine requirements There are no reasons to isolate or quarantine any person returning to New Zealand from affected areas (or any other area) if that person is well and has not been in close contact with a person with SARS. It is the responsibility of health authorities to decide whether isolation measures should be taken. It takes 2-10 days from infection until symptoms appear and transmission is very unlikely prior to the development of symptoms. If a person returning to NZ has been in contact with a confirmed SARS case they should report that to airport authorities prior to departing for NZ. Travellers from affected areas are generally being screened at airports prior to departure. A person returning to NZ from the following affected areas - China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore or the Philippines - should monitor their health for the next 10 days and consult a doctor if they feel unwell. New students may need help with this. Please phone your doctor or hospital before visiting them because it's important health staff are alerted to the possibility of a SARS illness. The Ministry of Health is also asking that people returning from the above areas take the following precautions: § Do not visit a hospital within 10 days after leaving an affected country; § Postpone elective surgery, outpatient visits and elective medical visits for 10 days after leaving an affected country; § Postpone non-urgent dental work for 10 days after leaving an affected country. All travellers should check this website www.moh.govt.nz/sars for further updates.