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Health Officials prepare for possible SARS outbreak

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Contact: Primus Hutchinson

Tuesday, April 29, 2003 - A leading health official has appealed to the media to play a more proactive role on educating the nation regarding the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, SARS. Speaking at a specially convened press conference by the Ministry of Health at the Government Information Service, to discuss the Ministry’s response to the outbreak of SARS around the world, Chef Medical Officer, Dr. Martin Didier, said in a small island state like St. Lucia, SARS can have a ripple effect and therefore it must be addressed at all levels including the media.

According to Dr. Didier, fear and panic has been quite prominent in contributing to the spread of the virus. Dr. Didier indicated that, health care workers are the first group of people who are exposed to those infected with SARS and therefore are at the greatest risk. Additionally the general public must be protected, since SARS has had disastrous consequences economically in the countries it has affected so far.

“And certainly it behoves us at all levels, not only in the clinical area and in the hospital area; when I say at all levels I mean including the media, because part of the treatment of SARS is education. It has been said that one of the greatest things that has been known to spread SARS is fear and panic. It means that people do things that they would not do under ordinary circumstances,” said Didier.

Minister for Health, Honourable Damian Greaves explained that a number of important measures have been instituted to prepare the country in case of a SARS outbreak. Mr. Greaves stated that among the measures already in place are isolation wards at both Victoria and St. Jude hospitals for patients suspected of contracting SARS. According to Minister Greaves, screening procedures have been put in place at the various ports of entry and health officials and workers are constantly undergoing education exercises, all in preparation for any possible outbreak of the SARS virus.

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