SARS, Prevention and Protection

Personal and Household Protection

What should I do if I think I have SARS?

If you are ill with a fever of over 100.4°F[>38.0°C] that is accompanied by a cough or difficulty breathing or that progresses to a cough and/or difficulty breathing, you should consult a health care provider. To help your health care provider make a diagnosis, tell him or her about any recent travel to regions where cases of SARS have been reported and whether you were in contact with someone who had these symptoms.

What has CDC recommended to prevent transmission of SARS in households?

CDC has developed interim infection control recommendations for patients with suspected SARS in the household. The basic precautions outlined in this document include the following:

  • Infection control precautions should be continued for SARS patients for 10 days after respiratory symptoms and fever are gone. SARS patients should limit interactions outside the home and should not go to work, school, out-of-home day care, or other public areas during the 10-day period.

  • During this 10-day period, all members of the household with a SARS patient should carefully follow recommendations for hand hygiene, such as frequent hand washing or the use of alcohol-based hand rubs.

  • Each patient with SARS should cover his or her mouth and nose with a tissue before sneezing or coughing. If possible, a person recovering from SARS should wear a surgical mask during close contact with uninfected persons. If the patient is unable to wear a surgical mask, other people in the home should wear one when in close contact with the patient.

  • Disposable gloves should be considered for any contact with body fluids from a SARS patient. However, immediately after activities involving contact with body fluids, gloves should be removed and discarded, and hands should be washed. Gloves should not be washed or reused, and are not intended to replace proper hand hygiene.

  • SARS patients should avoid sharing eating utensils, towels, and bedding with other members of the household, although these items can be used by others after routine cleaning, such as washing or laundering with soap and hot water.

  • Common household cleaners are sufficient for disinfecting toilets, sinks, and other surfaces touched by patients with SARS, but the cleaners must be used frequently.

  • Other members of the household need not restrict their outside activities unless they develop symptoms of SARS, such as a fever or respiratory illness.

Healthcare Settings

What has CDC recommended to prevent transmission of SARS in the health care setting?

Transmission of SARS to health care workers appears to have occurred after close contact with symptomatic individuals before recommended appropriate infection control precautions were implemented. CDC has developed interim infection control recommendations for the management of exposures to SARS in the health care and other institutional settings.

Health care facilities should be vigilant in conducting active surveillance for fever or respiratory symptoms among care givers with unprotected exposure to SARS patients. Health care workers who develop fever or respiratory symptoms during the 10 days following an unprotected exposure to a SARS patient should not report for duty. Such workers should stay home and report symptoms to the appropriate facility point of contact (e.g., infection control or occupational health) immediately. Exclusion from duty should be continued for 10 days after the resolution of fever and respiratory symptoms. During this period, infected workers should avoid contact with people both in the facility and in the community.

Exclusion from duty is not recommended for an exposed health care worker if they do not have fever or respiratory symptoms; however, the worker should report any unprotected exposure to SARS patients to the appropriate facility point of contact immediately.

What precautions should health care facilities follow regarding visits by close contacts of SARS patients?

Close contacts (e.g., family members or other members of the household) of SARS patients are at risk for infection. Health care facilities should implement a system to screen for fever or respiratory symptoms among such contacts who visit the facility. Close contacts with fever or respiratory symptoms should not be allowed to enter the health care facility as visitors and should be educated about this policy. Health care facilities should educate all visitors about use of infection control precautions when visiting SARS patients and should emphasize the importance of following these precautions.

This information has been provided with the kind permission of the Centers For Disease Control (www.cdc.gov).


Last Editorial Review: 7/7/2004