SARS Puts Hospitals on Alert

April 30, 2003< BR> Posted at: 9:26 p.m. CDT< /STRONG>

JONESBORO, Ark. -- Surgical masks have become common attire for the Chinese population since the outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome. In fact, the masks are actually now made in different designer styles.

Region 8 hospitals have a supply, and they are now available to the public, following the advice from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention based in Atlanta.

Cassie Bowen's five-year-old son Joshua is recovering from an illness that began a week ago.

"He started screaming his chest was hurting and then he started breathing funny," Cassie Bowen said.

Shortly after that, Joshua collapsed; sending his mom into a frenzy. A trip to the emergency room at the Regional Medical Center of Northeast Arkansas led to a set of X-rays and an overnight stay. Afterwards, he was sent home by his doctor.

"(The doctor) thought it was asthma," Bowen said. "That's what he diagnosed it for."

Joshua's diagnosis was simple. His doctor says this is the time of year when most kids get sick. Had Joshua's symptoms resembled that of SARS, however, his trip to the hospital would have been different.

The CDC recommends that all hospitals place information about SARS in their admission areas and waiting areas and take necessary precautions against the illness. The posted information urges people to stop if they experience any of the symptoms related to SARS, especially fever any type of respiratory problem. Those that have SARS-like symptoms are urged by the signs to cover their nose and mouth with a mask, and then report these symptoms to a receptionist on duty.

"Regional has had no cases of SARS, and we know of no known cases of SARS in northeast Arkansas," medical center spokeswoman Janet Johnson said.

According to the CDC, SARS appears to be spread by close person to person contact. According to Johnson, if a patient is suspected to have the illness the hospital staff will isolate the patient immediately.