Be cautious with SARS, some patients need mask

Draft guidelines address respiratory symptoms

Even if there are no cases in the world of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), you still should encourage patients with respiratory symptoms to wear a surgical mask, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s draft Public Health Guidance for Community-Level Preparedness and Response to Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).

Patients with respiratory symptoms should be moved to a private exam room "as soon as feasible," the guidance states. When there are SARS cases worldwide, but no known transmission in your area, screen all patients and visitors with respiratory symptoms for known SARS epidemiologic links, such as travel to endemic areas or contact with known cases, it adds.

The full guidance, dated Oct. 21, 2003, can be downloaded free at www.cdc.gov/ncidod/sars/sarsprepplan.htm. For recommendations specific to outpatient areas, click on "Supplement C: Preparedness and Response in Healthcare Facilities" and scroll down to p. 27: "Matrix 2: Recommendations for Outpatient Facilities/ Areas."