Health Alert: Advice for travelers from the World Health Organization (WHO), the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the State Department has changed only slightly in the past week regarding Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) in Asia and other places. WHO’s position remains unchanged, advising that travelers “consider postponing all but essential travel” to Hong Kong and Guangdong Province. The CDC recommends travelers avoid nonessential travel to mainland China, Hong Kong, Singapore and Hanoi, Vietnam. The State Department sites the CDC advice in recommending avoiding nonessential travel to China and Hong Kong, and because of the uncertainties surrounding the disease has authorized the voluntary departure of non-emergency employees and all family members at the U.S. Embassy in Beijing and the Consulates General in Chengdu, Shanghai, Shenyang, Guangzhou and Hong Kong. The Embassy and consulates remain open and offer their full range of services.
WHO is concerned about new clusters of SARS in a Singapore hospital and in Vietnam, where they thought the disease had been stopped. Many countries are now screening arriving passengers on flights from Hong Kong, China and Singapore to prevent the spread of the disease. These countries include Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Thailand. Canada has seen an increase in the number of cases but there have been no advisories recommending deferring travel there. All cases in Canada can be traced to hospitals, health care workers or family members of the sick. There have been no reports of the disease spreading to the general public, but new concerns have arisen about an elderly Ontario man who died from what were believed to be other causes, but now his family members are coming down with SARS. Officials are worried that they may have spread the disease to others attending the man’s funeral. The U.S. government added SARS to a list of infectious diseases and has established the right to put into quarantine anyone infected with SARS who doesn’t submit to quarantine voluntarily.