Volume 96, Issue 97
Wednesday, April 2, 2003

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SARS: To panic or not to panic?

Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) has reared its ugly head.

The rapidly spreading infectious virus is reported to have originated in China's Guandong province and has moved across the globe, striking numerous countries, including Singapore, Vietnam, the United States and Canada.

The disease arrived in Canada through Sui-chu Kwan, a citizen of Toronto who had been visiting Hong Kong, subsequently passing the disease on to her son – both have since died.

Unfortunately, the disease has quickly made its way throughout Toronto, infecting 111 people and claming the lives of six. Across the globe, the number of infected stands at over 1,800 and the deceased at 60.

The ripple effects have been felt in our own backyard, as London hospitals decided yesterday to suspend elective clinical visits, physician office visits, appointments, diagnostic procedures – such as CT scans, X-rays and ultra-sounds – and patient transfers to other hospitals without provincial approval.

The syndrome has captivated the media, hospitals and the public alike, leaving normal, everyday citizens sprinting to various supplies stores to round up N-95 masks to combat the spread of SARS.

It's extremely confusing for people, especially in today's global landscape, to know how to react to the many issues bombarding them on their TV sets and in the daily newspapers. While a war is waging across the Atlantic, a new "war" is being fought on home soil to defeat this deadly epidemic.

To make matters worse, the illness is so utterly indistinguishable from the common flu that people are further confused as to whether a cough means they are suffering from a flu, or whether they have contracted the virus.

Some people's tendency has been to react with extreme paranoia, believing the world is coming to an end. On the other hand, some people don't even seem to bat an eye at news of the increasing prevalence of the virus.

Neither approach is beneficial.

Admittedly, it's extremely difficult for people to fully comprehend the effect of SARS until they are personally affected by it – whether it be through a relative or by contracting the disease themselves.

It's extremely important to realize that we don't live in a bubble. People can make themselves aware of the ongoing situation and act according to the precautions that are advised. Therefore, remain cautious, but as Cuba Gooding Jr. said to Tom Cruise in the locker room in Jerry McGuire, "Don't freak out!"

When a new virus like SARS arrives and afflicts numerous people, the natural reaction is to expect the worse.

However, we can't let our natural fears takeover and paralyze us from going on with our lives.



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