WASHINGTON – Health officials say preventing Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, or SARS, might be as easy as following your mother’s advice.
“Wash your hands, wash your hands,” said Mary Novotny, a spokeswoman for the St. Mary’s County Health Department.
That is just one of the “very basic” preventive measures that people can use against the potentially deadly disease, officials say. Other measures include covering your mouth when you sneeze and disposing of used tissues right away.
“It’s some very basic things, but they’re very important things,” said Worcester County Health Officer Debbie Goeller.
SARS is viral respiratory illness that is spread through close personal contact, through sneezes and by touching surfaces that have been contaminated by a sneeze, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The flu-like disease begins with a high fever and symptoms can include headache, overall discomfort and body aches. Most patients eventually develop pneumonia, the CDC said.
The disease was unknown until February, when the first case was discovered in Hong Kong. It eventually killed almost 800 people and infected more than 7,000 others in 25 countries.
While there was a SARS outbreak in Canada, no confirmed cases have been reported in the United States. But while the virus has been dormant for several months, health officials warn that a projected severe flu season raises the possibility of an outbreak here.
With that in mind, county health officials continue to recommend that people get a flu shot. Not only will it make for a generally healthier public, but it will make it harder for people to confuse SARS with the flu, they said.
And they continue to recommend simple hygiene — even if it has a fancy name.
David Blodgett, a consultant with the Anne Arundel County Health Department, said people should remember to cover up their noses and mouths when sneezing or — in what he called the buzzword of the year — practice “respiratory etiquette.”