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Paynesville Press - December 10, 2003

PAHCS implements prevention plan for SARS

By Michael Jacobson

With the potential for Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) to return this winter, possibly during flu season, the Paynesville Area Health Care System (PAHCS) has implemented surveillance procedures as precautionary measures to help control the spread of SARS, should it return.

For screening purposes, all patients registering for an appointment with an active cough will be asked the following questions:

1. In the 10 days before you got sick, have you traveled to Mainland China, Hong Kong, or Taiwan?

2. Have you been in close contact with someone who is sick and traveled to one of these countries?

3. Have you been in close contact with someone who has recently been diagnosed with pneumonia?

4. Are you a healthcare worker?

If the answer to these questions is no, patients who are registering will be asked to stay three feet away from other patients in the waiting area, to use tissues to cover their cough, to dispose of their tissues in the waste basket, and to sanitize their hands when leaving the waiting room.

Hand sanitizer will be available at the registration desk and patients will be encouraged to clean their hands before filling out paper work. If the answer to any of the questions is yes, patients who are registering will be asked to wear a mask in addition to the steps above.

Clinic nurses will be informed, and the patient will be brought to an exam room as soon as possible.

Lab and radiology staff also will be notified of the patient's status prior to performing tests.

When a patient is admitted to the hospital with fever and an active respiratory infection, these questions also will be asked.

If the answer to any of these questions is yes, lab and radiology will be notified immediately and the patient will be placed in a private room with droplet precautions, meaning all people who enter should wear a special protective mask.

If SARS has been detected anywhere in the world again and a patient has a fever or evidence of a lower respiratory infection and has a SARS risk factor, PAHCS will begin SARS isolation precautions, notify the Minnesota Department of Health, and initiate a clinical evaluation.

These procedures coincide with the Center for Disease Control's recommendations to control the spread of SARS and State regulations.

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