Occupational health response to SARS.To the Editor: Severe acute respiratory syndrome Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) Definition
Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) is the first emergent and highly transmissible viral disease to appear during the twenty-first century. (SARS), an occupational disease risk for healthcare workers, warrants an occupational health response, as clearly described by Esswein et al. (1). Occupational health professionals played a role in the assessment of healthcare facilities in Taiwan and many other countries. For example, occupational health professionals were invited to perform audits in at least 2 hospitals in Singapore Public/Restructured General Hospitals
Division of patients for priority of care, usually into three categories: those who will not survive even with treatment; those who will survive without treatment; and those whose survival depends on treatment. of febrile febrile /feb·rile/ (feb´ril) pertaining to or characterized by fever.
Of, relating to, or characterized by fever; feverish. patients was taking place. Other issues identified as requiring urgent attention were providing sufficient rest, shower, and changing facilities for staff, monitoring staff sickness absenteeism, and proactively managing staff mental health. Occupational health physicians subsequently served on hospital SARS debriefing committees that reviewed institutional shortcomings and recommended new measures for future outbreaks. An occupational health service unit headed by a trained occupational health physician was formed in 1 hospital.
Other occupational groups, as well as healthcare workers, are also at potential risk. These groups may include the following: 1) food handlers, defined as persons who handle, kill, or sell food animals, and persons who prepare and serve food. (More than one third of the cases in China with onset of SARS before February 1, 2003, were in food handlers .); 2) public transportation workers and airline crew (4); and 3) laboratory workers handling samples or items contaminated with SARS-associated coronavirus coronavirus /co·ro·na·vi·rus/ (ko-ro´nah-vi?rus) any virus belonging to the family Coronaviridae.
Coronavirus /Co·ro·na·vi·rus/ (ko-ro´nah-vi?rus (5). In Singapore, 2 taxi drivers were infected after ferrying SARS patients to healthcare facilities, and 1 Singapore Airlines cabin attendant came down with the infection after a flight with infected passengers on board. Occupationally acquired SARS infections have been documented in Singapore, Taiwan, and Beijing. Clearly, occupational health responses are needed in these occupational settings.
The recognition of SARS as an occupational disease has broader implications. Depending on country legislation, persons who contract SARS while performing their work may be eligible for worker's compensation. Employers would be obligated ob·li·gate
tr.v. ob·li·gat·ed, ob·li·gat·ing, ob·li·gates
1. To bind, compel, or constrain by a social, legal, or moral tie. See Synonyms at force.
2. To cause to be grateful or indebted; oblige. to provide a sate and healthy workplace for their employees.
David Koh, * Meng-Kin Lim, * Choon-Nam Ong, * and Sin-Eng Chia *
* National University of Singapore The National University of Singapore (Abbreviation: NUS) is Singapore's oldest university. It is the largest university in the country in terms of student enrollment and curriculum offered. , Singapore
(1.) Esswein EJ, Kiefer M, Wallingford K, Burr G, Lee LJH LJH Little Jack Horner (children's story) , Wang JD, et al. Environmental and occupational health response to SARS, Taiwan, 2003. Emerg infect Dis. 2004;10:1187-94.
(2.) Koh D, Lim MK, Chia SE. SARS: health care work can be hazardous to health. Occup Med. 2003;53:241-3.
(3.) World Health Organization. Consensus document on the epidemiology of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS). 17 Oct 2003. Geneva Geneva, canton and city, Switzerland
Geneva (jənē`və), Fr. Genève, canton (1990 pop. 373,019), 109 sq mi (282 sq km), SW Switzerland, surrounding the southwest tip of the Lake of Geneva. : The Organization; 2003.
(4.) Olsen SJ, Chang HL, Cheung TY, Tang AF, Fisk Fisk , James 1834-1872.
American railroad financier and speculator who attempted in 1869 to corner the gold market with Jay Gould, leading to Black Friday, a day of nationwide financial panic. TL, Ooi SR et al. Transmission of the severe acute respiratory syndrome on aircraft. N Engl J Med. 2003;349:2416-22.
(5.) Normile D. Severe acute respiratory syndrome: lab accidents prompt calls for new containment program. Science. 2004:304: 1223-5.
Address for correspondence: David Koh, Department of Community, Occupational and Family Medicine, Faculty of Medicine (MD3), National University of Singapore, 16 Medical Drive, Singapore 117597; fax: 65-6-7791489: email: email@example.com