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Sat, Jan. 18

KRMC, county health department prepare for SARS

Kingman Regional Medical Center and the Mohave County Department of Public Health are taking a proactive approach against the possibility that a case of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) might surface in Kingman.

Christy Bronston, director of nursing, and an epidemiologist with the health department went to KRMC on April 28.

They met with Janet Gode, director of emergency services, Sue Kern, director of the emergency medical system, and Carleen Shelton, infection control practitioner.

"We set up a plan of action to screen patients to see if anyone coming into the emergency room potentially has SARS," Shelton said.

The SARS virus was first found in Southeast Asia but has spread around the world.

There have been no deaths reported from it thus far in the United States.

Symptoms of SARS include a temperature over 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit, headache, a feeling of discomfort with body aches and, in some cases, mild respiratory symptoms that could lead to a dry cough and breathing difficulty after two to seven days, Shelton said.

The new proactive approach in diagnosis and treatment was implemented April 30 at KRMC.

Anyone exhibiting SARS symptoms is put into an isolation room for further testing.

One of those tests is a viral nasal swab, Shelton said.

"Anyone with symptoms of an upper respiratory problem is being asked to wear a mask until further triaged," Shelton said.

"We want everyone at the hospital and in the community to be safe.

"We're being proactive here and it seems to be freaking people out."

Bronston said there have been no cases of SARS diagnosed in Mohave County.

Her department is receiving daily updates about SARS from the Centers for Disease Control and state Department of Health.

SARS is spread through personal contact.

Most cases reported have involved people caring for or living with someone with SARS and coming into contact with respiratory secretions, Shelton said.

Touching the skin of an infected person or objects containing droplets and then touching one's eyes, nose or mouth before washing the hands can result in infection, Bronston said.

Shelton said anyone who has traveled outside the United States in recent weeks and thinks they may have SARS should contact their health care provider.

"In addition, cover your mouth and nose with tissue when coughing or sneezing and wear a mask when in close contact with others," Shelton said.

World Health Organization numbers Wednesday stated the known worldwide death toll from SARS was at least 497.

More than 6,800 people have been infected with the virus, which has a fatality rate from 6 to 10 percent.

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