Guideline for Persons Returning to Pennsylvania College of Technology Who May Have Been Exposed to Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS)
All students, faculty, staff, and visitors who have had a possible exposure to SARS through travel to areas with recently documented or suspected community transmission of SARS1, or close contact2 with a person known to have SARS, should contact the College Health Services Office prior to returning to campus.
At this time, the Penn College College Health Services is attempting to adhere to current Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines3. However, after considering the College's capacity to provide appropriate isolation for an exposed individual who develops fever or respiratory symptoms, the College is adapting a slightly more conservative policy than current CDC guideline. These guidelines may change as new information about SARS becomes available.
Current CDC guidelines for management of school students exposed to SARS and who experience symptoms within 10 days of exposure state that:
If a symptomatic exposed student lives in a residence where appropriate infection control precautions cannot be implemented and maintained (e.g., crowded dormitory setting), alternative housing arrangements should be made. If there is no such alternative, the student should be hospitalized, or housed in a designated residential facility for convalescing SARS patients, where infection control precautions can be followed.
Depending on clinical findings, the length of isolation can be as little as 72 hours, or last longer than 10 days. Currently, there is no space available, nor are there any plans to create or maintain a “designated residential facility for convalescing SARS patients” at Penn College. Therefore, students and any other person with SARS exposure for whom “appropriate infection control precautions cannot be implemented and maintained,” may require isolation at a local hospital.
While College health officials currently believe that there is little risk of SARS spreading to the campus, the symptoms of SARS4 are so similar to common cold and allergy symptoms, that SARS-exposed students may find themselves being isolated. Furthermore, students isolated in hospitals will face issues of insurance coverage and reimbursement that may cause those students significant financial strain.
In order to avoid these and other complications, Penn College now states that:
- Symptomatic persons with exposure to SARS since March 1, 2003, should not return to campus until the person’s physician has performed an appropriate medical evaluation, and the College physician reviews the case and grants clearance to return.
- Non-symptomatic students, faculty, staff, and visitors who have had a possible exposure to SARS based on the CDC SARS case definition (through travel to areas with recently documented or suspected community transmission of SARS1, or close contact2 with a person known to have SARS) must wait for 10 days since their most recent exposure before returning to campus.
If ten days has elapsed since exposure to SARS, and the person never experienced symptoms, current CDC guidelines state that there is no risk of transmitting SARS. Those persons may return to campus as planned.
All returning students, faculty, and staff with a possible exposure to SARS will be made aware of symptoms of SARS based on the CDC definition, and asked to notify Penn College College Health Services if symptoms occur. Students may also be asked to complete and sign a questionnaire about possible exposure to SARS prior to receiving registration materials and room keys.
The College physician will evaluate students with suspected SARS. Individual treatment plans will be developed to provide the best care to each student and ensure the safety of the College community.
More information about SARS can be obtained at the following websites:
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
- Pennsylvania State Department of Health
- World Health Organization
1Areas with current documented or suspected community transmission of SARS include mainland China; Hong Kong; Taiwan; and Toronto, Canada. Visitors from Singapore are suspected if symptomatic prior to June 14, 2003. Visitors from Hanoi, Vietnam are suspected if symptomatic prior to May 25, 2003.
2"Close contact" is defined as having cared for or lived with a person known to have SARS or having a high likelihood of direct contact with respiratory secretions and/or body fluids of a patient known to have SARS. Examples of close contact include kissing or embracing, sharing eating or drinking utensils, close conversation (< 3 feet), physical examination, and any other direct physical contact between persons. Close contact does not include activities such as walking by a person or sitting across a waiting room or office for a brief period of time.
3 CDC guidelines:
- Interim Domestic Guidance on Persons Who May Have Been Exposed to Patients with Suspected Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/sars/exposuremanagement.htm
- Infection Control in Healthcare, Home, and Community Settings http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/sars/guidance/I/index.htm
- Updated Interim U.S. Case Definition of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/sars/casedefinition.htm
Mild respiratory illness
- Temperature of >100.4º F (>38º C)*
Moderate respiratory illness
- Temperature of >100.4º F (>38º C)* AND
- One or more clinical findings of respiratory illness (e.g., cough, shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, or hypoxia)
Severe respiratory illness:
- Temperature of >100.4º F (>38º C)* AND
- One or more clinical findings of respiratory illness (e.g., cough, shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, or hypoxia), AND
- radiographic evidence of pneumonia, or respiratory distress syndrome