SARS added to S.D.’s reportable diseases list

SARS added to S.D.'s reportable diseases list South Dakota is adding severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) to its list of mandatory reportable diseases.

State health officials are preparing for the re-emergence of SARS, the illness that sickened more than 8,000 and killed 700 worldwide in early 2003.

"We certainly hope we won't be facing a SARS epidemic in the world again this year but we need to be prepared for that possibility," said Dr. Lon Kightlinger, state Epidemiologist for the South Dakota Department of Health.

Kightlinger said the department investigated several possible cases in South Dakota during the 2003 outbreak, including one suspect case, but all were ruled out as SARS after testing of specimens at the state Public Health Laboratory and at the federal Centers for Disease Control.

Kightlinger said adding SARS to the reportable diseases list will strengthen surveillance and detection efforts. The new reporting requirement is effective Dec. 8 and requires physicians, hospitals and clinics to report SARS cases to the state Department of Health.

SARS is a viral respiratory illness caused by a coronavirus, called SARS-associated coronavirus (SARS-CoV). First reported in Asia in February 2003, it spread to more than two dozen countries in North America, South America, Europe, and Asia before the outbreak was contained.

SARS symptoms typically start with a fever and may include headache, overall discomfort and body aches. After two to seven days, SARS patients may develop a dry cough and have trouble breathing. No SARS deaths were reported in the US in 2003, however, in other countries up to 17 percent of people with SARS died.

"Because SARS appears to spread by close person-to-person contact, the best prevention measures are the same we recommend for protection against influenza and other respiratory viruses," said Kightlinger. "Wash your hands frequently, cover your mouth with a tissue when you sneeze or cough, and stay home when you're ill."

Kightlinger said the state continues to educate health care providers about SARS and its surveillance system continues to monitor for the disease. More information about SARS is available on the CDC Web site at www.cdc.gov/ncidod/sars/.

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