SARS has arrived in India. And the message, repeatedly, is not to panic. You must seek medical help if suffering from any symptoms, especially if they are visible after a recent visit to, or contact with someone who’s visited a SARS-affected country.
Tips for the public: Try to avoid contact with people who’ve returned from SARS-infected areas in the past 10 days. The person may be carrying the virus even if he/she is apparently healthy—he/she may be in the incubation period.
- Once you’ve been in contact with such a person, keep a watch if you develop any symptoms: fever, dry cough, headache, muscular stiffness, breathlessness, chest pain, and in some rare cases, skin rash and diarrhoea.
- Contact your family doctor immediately if you suspect any symptoms.
- Except for taking mild fever-lowering agents like paracetamol (Crocin, Calpol, etc), do not self-medicate, especially with drugs such as Nimesulide that can sharply lower the fever and mask the underlying disease.
- Anyone showing symptoms of SARS should be isolated. Strict hygienic measures should be undertaken: washing of hands, use of three-layered surgical masks, cleaning of toilet seats, door handles and other objects.
- Kill cockroaches since they are suspected of transmitting the virus, especially in multi-storeyed buildings.
- Avoid visiting crowded places.
Tips for doctors: Doctors should wear surgical masks, both in their clinics and during home visits till India is declared SARS-free.
- Refer all suspected cases to designated hospitals which can handle SARS cases in your area. Report such cases to the SARS control room at Delhi’s National Institute of Communicable Diseases: 011-23928700 (day); 011-23971326 (between 6 pm and 9.30 am, and on holidays.)
- Till the patient is transferred to a hospital, treat him/her at home unless his/her condition is deteriorating. Ensure that isolation rooms are available in hospital/nursing home.
- Pathology labs can send serum samples to the National Institute of Communicable Diseases, Delhi, or the National Institute of Virology, Pune, for the final diagnosis.
- The patient should be reassured that the fact that he/she is being treated for SARS does not mean the diagnosis is confirmed. The mere mention of SARS is frightening and can harm the patient.
Don’t self-medicate with drugs like Nimesulide that lower fever but mask SARS.