April 10, 2003, Gazette
|Dr. Rick Cooper
There have been no cases of severe acute respiratory syndrome
(SARS) in the province, but doctors and health officials are keeping
in close contact to ensure procedures are in place to deal with any
Dr. Rick Cooper, chair of the Discipline of Pediatrics and a specialist
in infectious diseases, said there have been inquiries at the Health
Sciences Centre about SARS from people with respiratory symptoms, but
none fit the suspected definition.
“We don’t encourage people to go to the emergency room directly
– we want them to call their physician or the ER and answer questions
about where they have traveled and if they have any of the following
symptoms – fever, cough, shortness of breath.”
If there are any suspicions, Dr. Cooper said the person inquiring would
be given two pieces of advice.
“If you are not sick, it would be best if you stayed in your house
until you are well, for up to 10 days. And if you are sick, come into
the hospital, giving us your name beforehand so we are expecting you
and can isolate you in a room with negative pressure so air does not
re-enter the Health Sciences Centre.”
Dr. Cooper said there are about 10 rooms in the HSC with negative pressure.
Hospitals outside St. John’s would just use a regular room and
examine the patient using contact and respiratory precautions –
mask, gown, goggles and hand-washing.
Dr. Cooper spoke to the Gazette April 2 following a teleconference with
health officials regarding SARS.
“We meet to make sure everyone is on track and that we are prepared.
It could be a passenger on a flight having trouble breathing and the
airplane would have to bring the person to St. John’s. The ambulance
drivers would wear masks for protection.”
Although SARS is receiving a lot of media attention, Dr. Cooper said
there is no need to panic.
“We think that SARS is a close contact respiratory spread, like
a cold, and less infectious than influenza, measles or chicken pox.”
Dr. Cooper has volunteered to examine anyone appearing sick with SARS
and said he is less worried about doing this using aggressive protection
control measures than he would be sitting in an airplane next to someone
Right now there is no treatment for SARS. Dr. Cooper said antibiotics
won’t do any good.
“It looks like SARS is a corona virus – about 10 per cent
of colds are caused by corona viruses and this is some kind of animal
strain that’s more virulent. There are no anti-viral agents for
On April 2 the United Nations health agency issued a travel warning
advising against trips to Hong Kong and the Chinese province of Guangdong
because of SARS.