University officials study CDC SARS guidelines for campus disease control

by Geoffrey Ziezulewicz

To plan for cases of SARS, University health officials are creating a policy based on new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines.

The recommendations, released May 14, offer advice to schools and organizations hosting guests from SARS-affected areas. Rigorous public health measures could control the “moderately contagious” virus, according to two research reports published last week by the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

The University postponed a SARS forum for Minnesota colleges and universities planned for May 16.

“We just wanted a little time to incorporate what the CDC had recommended,” said David Golden, public health director at Boynton Health Service. “It gives us time to figure out exactly what needs to be done.”

The meeting will be rescheduled for this summer.

The CDC guidelines will form a large part of the University’s formal SARS policy, which is still in its infant stages, Golden said.

“We don’t really have a policy regarding SARS yet at the University,” he said.

The most important thing the University can do to prevent the spread of SARS is to make sure there is good communication among departments, Golden said.

Boynton works with the state Health Department and other University departments, Golden said.

Boynton would play a prominent role in any potential outbreak because any SARS case would be detected in their facilities, but different University departments’ cooperation would be essential to successfully fighting SARS, Golden said.

“Everybody will play a role,” he said.

As of May 22, the World Health Organization had reported 7,890 SARS cases worldwide, with 65 probable cases in the United States.

Besides the standard hand hygiene protocols that would help people stave off contact with the virus, the CDC guidelines recommend rapid detection and isolation of any people who exhibit symptoms.

However, the report also said SARS isolation and prevention needs to occur “without unnecessarily stigmatizing these groups or interfering with collegial pursuits.”

Golden said staying rational and maintaining the University’s open environment are also important goals in the University’s evolving policy toward SARS.

“People who come here need to know that they can come here,” he said. “And once they’re here, they should know that if something comes up medically, we are able to help them.”

Geoff Ziezulewicz is a freelance writer.

The freelance editor welcomes comments at [email protected]