S.A.R.S | Health & Safety

Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS)

Frequently Asked Questions

The following are answers to frequently asked questions about SARS. These answers are based on the latest guidance from ERHA as of 27th April 2003, which are subject to review and updating when necessary. http://www.erha.ie/

What is SARS?

SARS is the term being used to describe a serious respiratory illness which has recently been reported in parts of East and South East Asia and which is now being reported from other countries in the world.

What are the Signs & Symptoms of SARS?

In general, SARS begins with a fever greater than 100.4 F [>38.0 C]. Other symptoms may include headache, an overall feeling of discomfort, and body aches. Some people also experience mild respiratory symptoms. After 2 to 7 days, SARS patients may develop a dry cough and have trouble breathing.

What is the Incubation Period?

The incubation period for SARS is typically 2 to 7 days; however, isolated reports have suggested an incubation period as long as 10 days.

How long is a person with SARS infectious to others?

Information to date suggests that people are most likely to be infectious when they have symptoms, such as fever or cough. However, it is not known how long before or after their symptoms begin that patients with SARS might be able to transmit the disease to others.

How is SARS spread?

The primary way that SARS appears to spread is by close person-to-person contact. Most cases of SARS have involved people who cared for or lived with someone with SARS, or had direct contact with infectious material (for example, respiratory secretions) from a person who has SARS. Potential ways in which SARS can be spread include touching the skin of other people or objects that are contaminated with infectious droplets and then touching your eye(s), nose, or mouth. This can happen when someone who is sick with SARS coughs or sneezes droplets onto themselves, other people, or nearby surfaces. It also is possible that SARS can be spread more broadly through the air or by other ways that are currently not known.

Who is most at risk of contracting SARS?

Generally, cases of SARS continue to be reported primarily among people who have had direct close contact with an infected person, such as those sharing a household with a SARS patient and health-care workers while caring for a SARS patient. The situation continues to be monitored closely.

What is the risk to the general public?

The risk of developing SARS to anyone who has not been to the affected parts of the world are extremely low. It is important however that we keep watch in order to identify any possible cases of this illness.

What can I do to protect myself?

The best advice is to be aware of the symptoms of this illness, particularly if you have recently travelled to Hong Kong, China, Singapore, Vietnam, and other parts of South East Asia, or Toronto, Canada and seek medical advice should you develop them within 10 days of your return.

Information about Travel.

Where should I not travel?

The Department of Health & Children have issued the following travel advisory.

As of 27th April 2003 the Department of Health & Children strongly advises individuals not to travel to SARS-affected areas:

  • China
  • Hong Kong Special Admin Region of China
  • Singapore
  • Vietnam
  • Toronto (Canada)

Passengers intending to transit through Airports in the affected areas should consider using an alternative route where possible. This advice is being reviewed regularly and may change.

What if I must travel?

As a first step it is important to be aware of the signs and symptoms of the disease as outlined above. If you develop any of the signs or symptoms you must seek medical attention immediately. If you become a suspect or probable case of SARS be aware that you may be quarantined.

As with all infectious illnesses, the first line of defence is careful hand hygiene. As a general rule, it is good practice to wash hands frequently with soap and water; if hands are not visibly soiled, alcohol-based hand rubs may be used as an alternative.

As of this time there is no evidence to support the routine use of masks while in public places.

What if I have recently returned from a country where cases of SARS have been reported?

You should monitor your own health for 10 days following your return. If you develop any of the symptoms outlined above you should seek medical attention urgently. To help your health-care provider make a diagnosis, tell him/her about any foreign travel you have recently had and/or whether you were in contact with someone who had these symptoms.

What if I am a student, health care worker or teacher and have travelled from one of the high risk areas?


Schools of Students returning from areas covered in the Department of Health Children travel advisory should contact their pupils prior to their return to Ireland and advise them that they should be screened in their place of residence and if unwell or if having recently been in contact with a known case of SARS, to refrain from travelling for 10 days. On their return to school, children should be monitored in accordance with current guidelines available at www.doh.ie

Health Care Workers.

Health Care Workers, Health Care Students, working in hospitals in the affected regions described above, coming to Ireland to work, study, or take exams in which involves patient contact, must avoid contact with patients for 10 days after departure from the affected area.

Exclusion from duty is not recommended for a health care worker who has travelled from one of the areas covered in the Department of Health & Children travel advisory unless:

  • They are unwell with symptoms consistent with SARS (i.e., fever or respiratory symptoms)
  • They are well but have been in close contact with a SARS case
  • Involved in the care of a SARS case or worked in a health care setting where cases were being treated.

Health Care staff in this group should avoid patient contact for 10 days after departure from the affected area and contact the appropriate facility point immediately for further advice.


No additional measures are recommended for teachers over and above those who apply to any member of the public returning from one of these regions.

Is screening or quarantine for travellers recommended?

General registration or health controls (screening) at ports of arrival in Europe are of little value since the incubation period of SARS can be up to 10 days. On the contrary, they may give the public a false sense of security. However, information for the public is available at ports of entry from affected areas. This is the correct approach at the present time and expert advice from the World Health Organisation and the European Union Communicable Diseases Committee does not recommend either screening or quarantining of travellers returning from one of the areas covered in the Department of Health & Children travel advisory.

Information for Cases or Contacts.

What if I think I have SARS?

If you believe you have any of the symptoms outlined above you should seek medical attention urgently. In the event that you are unable to contact your GP by phone you should contact your local A&E Department for further advice, and identify the nature of your condition. To help your health care provider make a diagnosis, tell him/her about any foreign travel you have recently had and/or whether you were in contact with someone who had these symptoms.

What if I have been in contact with a suspect or probable case?

If it has been determined that you are a contact of a SARS case you will be managed in accordance in the `Management of SARS cases' available at www.doh.ie

What do I do if I have been in contact with a person who themselves were in contact with a SARS case?

Contacts who are showing no signs of symptoms are not considered to pose a threat and no further precautions are necessary.

If in any doubt contact your local GP or visit the Health Clinic for advice.