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Mystery Illness Health Alert: Speaking Points for Tour Operators

March 17, 2003

Mystery Illness Health Alert: Speaking Points for Tour Operators
As health officials around the world, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Health Canada and the World Health Organization, issue advisories concerning the recent reports of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), the following speaking points will be helpful when communicating with travelers about the news.

Keep in mind, the WHO is currently stating, "there is presently no recommendation for people to restrict travel to any destination."

NTA is closely monitoring the situation and will keep members informed on the latest updates regarding how Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) is affecting travel. For more information, NTA recommends visiting the following links:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):

World Health Organization (WHO):

Health Canada:

Speaking Points:

  • At the present time, the World Health Organization is reporting, "there is presently no recommendation for people to restrict travel to any destination." However, the CDC said travelers may wish to consider travel alternatives if they have plans to visit affected areas.
  • Currently, the illness outbreak has been reported in Canada, China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam.
  • The outbreak is centered in Hong Kong, where it is primarily affecting medical staff and 95 patients are under observation.
  • Airlines in Hong Kong, Vietnam, Australia, Japan and New Zealand are closely monitoring the situation and ordering staff not to check passengers who show signs of the illness.
  • In addition to the respiratory symptoms, signs of the illness can include initial rapid onset of high fever followed by muscle aches, headache and sore throat. Muscle stiffness, loss of appetite, malaise, confusion, rash and diarrhea are also common symptoms.

Question and Answer About SARS:

Q: What are the symptoms?
A fever of about 101, coughing and shortness of breath. Other possible symptoms include headache, muscular stiffness, loss of appetite, confusion, rash and diarrhea.

Q: How quickly can someone get the disease after being exposed to it?
Three to seven days.

Q: How does someone catch it?
It appears to spread through close contact, such as between family members or between patient and doctor. Experts believe it is spread through coughing, sneezing and other contact with nasal fluids.

Q: What causes it?
Researchers don’t know whether a bacteria or a virus causes it, and they may not know the answer for several more days.

Q: How is it treated?
Those suspected of having SARS are being quarantined. The best treatment is unclear because different medicines have been used in different hospitals.

Q: What are the chances of recovering from it?
So far there are nine fatalities among the 150 most recent cases.

Q: Where did the disease first appear?
SARS was first recognized in Hanoi, Vietnam, on Feb. 26. An outbreak of pneumonia of similar symptoms struck Guangdong province, China, last November and was only brought under control in mid-February.

Q: Is it dangerous to travel in those regions?
U.S. health officials said travelers should consider postponing trips to countries at risk. Those who have traveled to Hong Kong or Guangdong province in China, or Hanoi, Vietnam, are being told to monitor their health for seven days. If a fever and shortness of breath develop, they are advised to see a doctor.

Source: World Health Organization (newsweb sites); U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (newsweb sites).

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