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Recommendations because of the Sars epidemic

sosiaali- ja terveysministeriö
Publication date 28.3.2003 14.00
Press release 103/2003

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has issued new recommendations to avert the SARS epidemic emerged in South-East Asia. In Finland the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health recommends postponing such journeys to affected areas in Continental China and Vietnam that are not necessary, such as holiday trips.

The recommendation of the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health for postponing less necessary journeys, such as holiday trips, applies to Hong Kong, the Province of Guangdong, the Province of Shanx, and Beijing in Continental China; and to Hanoi in Vietnam. The recommendation does not apply to other areas defined as areas affected with SARS.

The WHO has recommended that the relevant authorities in the affected areas should consider screening the passengers that leave them by international flights. The screening would include a short series of questions made by airport authorities to each passenger aiming to identify persons showing symptoms of SARS and to advise them to put off their flight. Although there is so far no indication of people having been infected during a flight, the WHO issues instructions to airline companies flying from the affected areas regarding procedures to be taken in case a passenger would fall ill with symptoms compatible with those of SARS during a flight.

The WHO does not yet issue a general recommendation for restrictions on travels to infected areas, but it considers that individual countries can issue them at their own discretion. In addition to the danger of being infected with SARS, passengers risk a delay in their return journey even if they only have caught a common respiratory infection. Furthermore, passengers might be faced with problems when having to resort to, for any reason, the health care service of a country that is already over-burdened owing to the SARS epidemic. A similar recommendation for postponing less necessary journeys has been issued in Sweden.

No new features have been reported regarding the symptoms of SARS defined originally. Several promising observations have been made in research studies concerning the microbe causing the syndrome. It will however take some time until the preliminary observations will be confirmed and a diagnostic test indicating the pathogen will be ready for use.

The web pages of the Finnish Public Health Institute www.ktl.fi, that are updated continuously, contain information about SARS symptoms, affected areas and necessary precautions.

Further information:

Director Tapani Melkas, Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, tel. 09-1607 3886, 050 5535533, Dr Petri Ruutu, Department of Infectious Disease Epidemiology, Public Health Institute, tel. 09-47448670

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