Saturday, April 25, 2009

Mexican SARS?

The Public Agency of Canada is investigating something mirroring the horrific SARS pandemic which criss-crossed the globe in 2003.

Healthy adults between the ages of 25 and 44 that travelled to Mexico, appear to be suffering from a severe respiratory illness upon their return to Canadian soil.

Medical experts in Mexico and here in Canada aren’t sure what it is, and they are advising the public not to worry, despite the similarities to the dreaded SARS outbreak.

Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) infected 8,096, killing 774 of those infected, in 37 countries around the world, in 2003, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

Just like SARS, where a handful of people died, prompting an investigation, 20 people have died in Mexico due to this respiratory illness. Also as with SARS, health care workers treating people with the new infection from Mexico have also become sick. Hundreds of Mexicans have been sent to hospital, some ending up on ventilators – sounds just like another SARS.

The symptoms start out like any flu, but rapidly deteriorate to sever breathing difficulties within five-days. The symptoms are:
  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Sore Throat
  • Muscle and Joint Pain
  • Shortness of Breath

Medical experts – the same ones telling us not to panic – say it could be a severe form of influenza (the flu), but they still don’t really know what it is, and are still testing it.

And that is the real concern – when SARS first hit Canada and much of the world, medical experts told us not to panic.

One really should never panic, but shouldn’t medical advisors be advising us more as to what to do to prevent the spread of the latest deadly infection, rather than emphasizing the “don’t panic” plan?

Granted, these experts may not know what to do. They are advising us to do what is just common sense – always wash our hands before touching our face, and especially when preparing food or eating.

But then again, that was the advice that came out early on in the SARS crisis, and as it turned out, all the hand washing in the world wouldn’t prevent it from spreading. SARS was spread in the air, so just breathing in the same air as someone infected could make you sick.

It is not known yet if this new infection out of Mexico is an airborne illness – if it is, we could be looking at another major outbreak.

According to the Public Health Agency of Canada, if you get sick when you’re out of the country, you are supposed to report it to the custom’s officer when you arrive, and see your doctor right away.

All doctors in Canada have been made aware of this new infection from Mexico, and are being kept in the loop on the latest treatments.

So far, the Canadian government has not issued any travel advisories for Mexico, but if I was going on vacation to some sunny hotspot, I’d probably avoid one where people are getting sick by some mystery ailment.

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