GCC Ready for SARS

El Vaquero Staff Writer

As of the end of April, 5,663 people worldwide were diagnosed with Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, 20 of them are in California.
While the number of SARS cases has gone up since the disease first arrived in Asia in November, the Health Center at GCC has yet to come across a student with the illness.

.”It is a real scary thing. We have had a few students call us with concerns, but we have not had any people come in that meet the criteria (of SARS),” said Mary Mirch, associate dean of health services.

The criteria needed for SARS, an air-borne disease that attacks the respiratory system, has been distributed by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization, which are the two organizations that the GCC Health Center consults to ease anxieties.

The symptoms for the diagnosis of SARS are a fever greater than 100.4 degrees, headache, discomfort, bodyaches and a dry cough (which usually develops after two to seven days), according to the CDCP.

While the symptoms are similar to the symptoms of a cold or flu, important factors may help to determine a more serious infection.

“In a cold, the fever is not as high as the fever brought on by SARS, and the body aches and headaches last longer in SARS cases,” said Mirch.

If a patient comes into the Health Center complaining of flu-like symptoms, the nurses do an evaluation that determines the patient either a suspect case or a probable case.

A suspect case of SARS is determined first. If the patient has a temperature of more than 100.4, a cough, shortness of breath, or if they have traveled in the last 10 days, they would be suspected of having the illness.

“If we suspect someone, we would get in contact with public health officials and send out a culture to them right away,” Mirch said. Once the patient is sent to the hospital, the hospital would take X-rays and wait for results of the blood/cultures tests.

A probable case of SARS is determined once the X-ray is taken. If there is “radiographic evidence of pneumonia, respiratory distress and they traveled to, or was in close contact with people who have visited countries such as Republic of China, Hanoi, Vietnam, Singapore, and Toronto, Canada,” they may have developed SARS, the CDCP said.

A student in Southern California developed symptoms while studying abroad in China.

The student, Adam Price, 21, who is enrolled at Point Loma Nazarene University in San Diego, is currently being quarantined at his parent’s home. He originally was admitted to a hospital in China while studying overseas and is recieving treatment in the U.S.

The study abroad program at GCC “will not have that problem [contracting SARS will studying abroad] as all of the trips have been canceled,” said Jose Mercade, director of the study abroad program. “We do not have any programs this year in Asia,” The CDCP has published guidelines to aid in the management of students exposed to SARS.

“Exposed students who develop fever or respiratory symptoms during the 10 days following the exposure should avoid contact with others, seek immediate medical evaluation and remain in their homes,” the guidelines stated.

If the case ends up only being a suspect case and no radiographic evidence is found, the student may return to school and work.

If a student with SARS has been present on campus for the 10 days after exposure, an immediate SARS education needs to take place on the campus, the guide states.

At GCC, the Health Center is preparing, just in case.

The Health Center staff underwent training provided by the CDCP, via teleconference. The conference showed health care workers how to recognize, assess and report SARS cases to the CDCP.

The center also keeps dated brochures, pamphlets and a newsletter put out by the Massachusetts Medical Society.

The center also keeps dated brochures, pamphlets and a newsletter put out by the Massachusetts Medical Society called Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, which gives updates and new information on illnesses.

The information in this literature is for safety and precaution, despite the lack of actual SARS patients in Glendale.

In spite of the 20 diagnosed cases in California, the total of SARS cases in the United States has been far less than in Asia; it is possible that the sheer number of people living in Asia has allowed the disease to spread, Mirch said.

Mirch added, “The standard of care in China is different,” with millions of people living in close proximity of each other, an airborne disease travels faster.

Even buildings’ ventilation systems need to be reconstructed to help aid in cleaning the air of germs, Mirch said. Another problem with the spread of the disease may be the lack of personal hygiene among all world countries.

“It is critical to wash your hands,” to prevent all germs from entering your body, Mirch said.

The CDCP also adds, “using hot water and an anti-bacterial soap helps to aid in good hand hygiene. Covering your mouth and nose when sneezing or coughing, to reduce spreading germs, and wearing a surgical mask, when possible, to reduce the number of droplets coughed into the air.”

A link to the CDCP Web site can be accessed from the Health Center Web page at http://www.glendale.cc.ca.us/health/index.htm.