May 1, 2003 – Vol. 22 No. 15

current issue
archive / search
Chronicle RSS Feed

    University is preparing for any possible SARS outbreak

    By Peter Schuler
    News Office

    There is no indication in the University community of severe acute respiratory syndrome, but medical and administrative staff members are prepared in the event that a case is found on campus.

    “We are closely monitoring the reports and following the recommendations on SARS from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the World Health Organization, the local health departments and other organizations involved with the SARS emergency. We have mobilized all campus departments so everyone understands this problem and is ready to respond to any who may think they have been exposed,” said Sarah Van Orman, Assistant Professor in Medicine and Director of the Student Care Center. “We have protocols in place to isolate and treat SARS patients both in our hospitals and in alternative residential settings, should it become necessary.”

    The first known case of SARS was reported in China in early November 2002. Since then, more than 5,462 probable cases of the disease, including 353 deaths, have been reported worldwide, according to the World Health Organization. In the United States, however, there have been no reported fatalities among the 41 potential cases currently being monitored. The disease has an incubation period of 10 days after exposure, and if no illness develops within that time, the person is considered free of infection.

    “Very little is known for certain about SARS,” Van Orman said. “It is diagnosed primarily through a patient having three symptoms: high fever, respiratory problems, including coughing, and reason to suspect exposure because of travel to a high-risk area or contact with someone who may have been exposed. The rather commonplace nature of the key symptoms–fever and a cough– means that it is likely that there are more people being diagnosed as having SARS than actually have the disease.”

    Colleges and universities are being especially vigilant. With highly mobile students, teachers and staff, who often travel overseas living in close quarters, campus communities may be more vulnerable to the spread of the disease.

    Sherry Gutman, Deputy Dean of Students for Housing and Dining and Assistant Dean of the College, said the University is adapting emergency plans that already are in place for the particular requirements of the SARS crisis. “We recognize that our existing emergency response systems will be effective in responding should a SARS case occur, and we are holding training sessions for ‘first-responders,’ such as the Deans on Call and housing staff, for this contingency,” she said.

    “SARS is a rapidly unfolding story that changes every day, and those of us responsible–both administrators and healthcare staff–for monitoring these changes, are doing our best to keep up with it and respond effectively.”

    As a precaution in response to the SARS outbreak the Graduate School of Business has postponed the Executive M.B.A. spring session on its Singapore campus until September.

    Further information on SARS is available online at the Web sites of the Centers for Disease Control: http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/sars/; the World Health Organization: http://www.who.int/en/; and the Illinois Department of Public Health: http://www.idph.state.il.us/health/sars.htm.