Take precautions


  • Health
  • Sunday, 20 Apr 2003

Compiled by HOOI YOU CHING

  • OBSERVE good personal hygiene. Wash your hands before touching your eyes, nose and mouth as the SARS virus spreads via respiratory droplets. 

  • Use liquid soap for washing and paper towels for drying hands. That’s because germs and microbes flourish in damp conditions.  

  • Make sure hands are clean before preparing food or having a meal. Wash hands under running water, use liquid soap and rub lather over the front and back of hands, wrists, between fingers and under fingernails for at least 10 seconds. Let water flow into the sink, not down your elbows. 

  • Wash your hands frequently, particularly after touching door knobs/handles, hand railings, lift buttons and public phones. In the office, don’t touch your face after using the fax machine, photocopier and water dispensers. 

  • If you wear rings, jewellery or spectacles, it’s advisable to wash them as they are potential sources of contamination.  

  • Cover your mouth when sneezing or coughing. Use tissues and dispose of them properly. 

  • Maintain good ventilation by allowing plenty of fresh air indoors. Ensure the air-conditioning system is clean and serviced regularly.  

  • Be responsible. If you are sick, limit your social interaction. Wear a surgical mask if you have a runny nose, sore throat and cough when you go out to public places. Seek medical help immediately.  

  • Before putting on your mask, wash your hands. And make sure the mask covers your nose and mouth, and falls slightly over your chin. 

  • When not in use, keep masks in plastic bags. Remember to discard soiled masks properly. 

  • Avoid travelling to countries where SARS cases have been reported, or those listed by the World Health Organisation, such as China, Hong Kong, Singapore, Vietnam and Canada. 

  • Avoid crowded places with poor ventilation. 

  • Avoid direct contact with a SARS patient.  

  • Avoid sharing eating utensils, towels or bedding with persons infected with SARS, although these items can be used by others after thorough washing with detergent and hot water. 

  • Don’t share food from the same container. Preferably, use a common spoon.  

  • A person recovering from SARS is advised to wear a surgical mask during close contact with uninfected persons. If the patient is unable to wear a surgical mask, those in direct contact with him/her close should wear one. Change masks daily or when they become worn or damaged. 

  • Healthcare workers should adhere strictly to the Universal Protection System of handwashing and barrier nursing, and the treatment of SARS patients. This includes wearing protective gear such as a N95/N100 mask, operation theatre uniform, disposable apron, gloves and goggles, depending on the expected level of protection. 

  • Healthcare facilities should screen those who visit SARS patients for fever and other respiratory symptoms, to control the spread of the virus.  

  • Healthcare workers who develop fever or respiratory symptoms during the 10 days following exposure to a SARS patient should not report for duty.  

  • For better protection, apply alcohol-based hand rub to one palm and rub hands together, covering all surfaces of hands and fingers until they are dry. These rubs are fast and effective alternatives to the soap-water routine. 

  • Wearing disposable gloves reduces contamination by 70% to 80%, especially when in contact with body fluids from a SARS patient. Hand rubs and gloves should be used before and after handling each patient.  

  • Those returning from overseas should monitor their health as the incubation period for SARS is typically 2-7 days. However, isolated incidents have suggested an incubation period of as long as 10 days.  

  • If you develop symptoms of the SARS virus, consult a physician immediately. Inform the doctor about your recent visit to countries affected with SARS, or whether there was contact with persons showing similar symptoms. The illness usually starts with a high fever (over 38 degree Celsius) accompanied by symptoms like a dry cough, breathing difficulties, shortness of breath, sore throat, headaches and muscle aches. 

  • Playgrounds and public parks are safe places as the outdoors reduces the risk of cross infection. However, you should avoid these spots if they are too crowded. Stay away from them if you are unwell.  

  • There have been no known cases of SARS being transmitted in swimming pools. However, some doctors are not recommending this activity for safety’s sake.  

  • Go on and organise your party. If possible, have it outdoors or in areas with good ventilation. Use paper plates and cups, and disposable forks and spoons. Make available boxes of tissues and paper towels. Make sure there are no sick guests.  

  • With or without SARS, it is good to shower after returning from crowded places. If you have returned from the hospital, give yourself a good scrub from head to toe.  

  • Do not spit into drains, on the ground, or in public areas. The SARS virus, expelled either as droplets or bodily secretions, can survive in the environment for as long as three hours. 

  • Build up your body’s immune system. Go for a balanced diet, regular exercises, adequate rest and activities that reduce stress. Boost your immune system by taking health supplements like vitamins C and E, fruits and green, leafy vegetables. Remember, a weak immune system is an open invitation to a viral attack.  

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