Global Alert and Response (GAR)

Guidance for Mass Gatherings: hosting persons arriving from an area with recent local transmission of SARS

15 May 2003

Over the past few weeks, the enormous amount of information now available on SARS and the increasing awareness of the general public of SARS may have led to irrational behaviour and the exclusion of people coming from an area with recent local transmission of SARS

According to the information now available, only persons with symptoms are contagious and can transmit the disease, and close contact is required for transmission. Close contact means having cared for, lived with, or had direct contact with respiratory secretions or body fluids of a suspect or probable case of SARS.

WHO recommends that those hosting persons arriving from an area with recent local transmission of SARS follow the following principles :

  • A person who is symptom free and has not been in close contact with a suspected SARS patient may freely be welcomed without any other measures. However, he or she should remain vigilant, and if symptoms develop within 10 days of arrival, contact the Medical Service of the hosting Organization / Institution in the country.

  • A person who has been in close contact or thinks he or she has been in close contact with a person suspected of SARS over the last 10 days, should not leave his/her country and should contact the national health authorities of his /her country.

    If however, the person has already left his/her country, he or she should contact the Medical Service of the hosting Organization / Institution in the country to be placed under active surveillance for 10 days after the date of his/her contact with a case and according to the standardized procedures of the hosting country.

  • A person who develops symptoms within ten days of arrival in the hosting country (including sudden fever above 38 degrees C, dry cough, shortness of breath, and/or difficulty in breathing), should do the following:

    • Not leave his/her room;
    • Call the Medical Service of the hosting Organization / Institution to ensure that proper isolation can be carried out according to the standardized procedures of the hosting country.

All countries should have in place arrangements for surveillance, contact tracing and isolation in case of the importation of a SARS case. The best defence is not exclusion but good management of the situation in the unlikely event that someone attending a meeting were to become sick with SARS

Wearing of masks by well persons who are traveling from an area with recent local transmission of SARS is not recommended by WHO.

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