SARS (No Symptoms Here)

Erin's good friend Therese, studying and working to become a registered nurse, posted the symptoms of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) over in her comments on Vivid.

No, neither of us have the disease (and, by the way, isn't Severe and Acute redundant? It does make for an evil-sounding acronym, however). It is a reflection of the attention the disease is getting. It's started to push the Iraqi war off of the top of the headlines, and that's a reflection of the seriousness of this disease.

Ontario has been hit by a significant outbreak. Travellers returning from southeast Asia brought the disease here less than a month ago. Since then, there have been over 100 cases, and six deaths. Two hospitals have been closed, as has a school. Today, the provincial government announced that it had cancelled all elective surgery and tests provincewide -- a sweeping step to try and get ahead of this disease. Rumour has it that all outpatient services would also be cancelled, but this hasn't happened. The intension is to keep as many people as possible out of the hospitals, because that's where this disease seems to be spreading.

There is, I have to repeat, no reason for panic. The disease is alarming in its speed -- at the very least this virus is droplet based, passed as easily as cold or flu -- but SARS' fatality rate is far less than that of the influenza epidemic of 1919. That's worth thinking about, even as this is the major topic of conversation throughout the province, and especially as the foot-traffic in Toronto's Chinatowns vanishes. There is no need to break out Dustin Hoffman and Renne Russo yet...

The big problem of SARS is that many of the people affected are health care workers. Dozens of doctors have been put into quarantine in order to halt the spread of the disease; this alone has put a severe strain on our health care system. If this keeps up, Ontarians may be more at risk from the overburdened system than from SARS itself. So, this disease bears watching, a lot of crossed fingers, and more than a few prayers.

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