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March 31, 2003
For immediate release

Chief Health Officer Issues SARS Update

Health and Social Services

Chief Health Officer Dr. Lamont Sweet held a press conference today to outline steps being taken by the Department of Health and Social Services to minimize the risk of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) in Island hospitals, schools and workplaces.

"Although there have been no confirmed cases of SARS in the province, the illness appears to have moved further east during the weekend, and Prince Edward Island residents should take precautions," said Dr. Sweet.

Residents are reminded that those at highest risk of SARS are those who, in the past 10 days, have left Vietnam; the People's Republic of China including the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region and Taiwan; and Singapore, or who have had contact in any country with a person with a known case of SARS.

Symptoms of SARS begin with a temperature of above 38 C and either a cough, shortness of breath, or difficulty breathing. Initial symptoms may be followed by more severe respiratory distress.

Dr. Sweet outlined the following precautionary steps:

Staff of the seven acute care hospitals, who return from travel in any of the high risk countries are to stay away from work for a period of 10 days.

Staff and students of any Island school, who return from travel in any of the high risk countries are asked to stay away from school for a period of 10 days.

Islanders in all other workplaces, who have visited high risk areas, and who have become ill are asked to voluntarily stay away from work for a period of 10 days.

People who are at risk of SARS and who have experienced symptoms of the illness are advised to call ahead before seeking medical advice from a doctor's office, clinic, or emergency room.

"We are putting the most stringent precautions in place at local hospitals, because we want to ensure that our hospitals remain open and accessible to patients needing care," Dr. Sweet advised.

Last week the provincial government took immediate steps, through an Executive Council Order, to list SARS as a reportable illness under the Public Health Act.

Health Canada recommends that persons planning to travel to one of the above listed areas should defer all travel until further notice.

Media Contact: Connie McNeill
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