April 16, 2003

Dear Parents

April 16, 2003


Please take the time to read the following updates and answers to common Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) questions. Thank you for your continued co-operation and support through this challenging period. We will better prevent the spread of SARS if we work together every effort makes a difference.

Quarantine is a very effective technique to contain and prevent the spread of an infectious disease. It may seem like an aggressive action to place someone on home quarantine for 10 days, but it works. We want everyone to answer the following questions with the public good in mind:

Do you answer YES to these questions?

If you answered YES, we need to hear from you. You may have been exposed to SARS and need to be in quarantine to prevent the spread of the disease to others. You must contact Health Connection immediately at 1-800-361-5653 for direction. Of course, not all individuals who have answered "Yes" to the above questions will require quarantine. Our Health Connection staff will determine if you need further assessment.

I heard on the news that if someone has any signs of illness that they should stay at home until the source of the illness is sorted out. Is this true?

As with any infectious illness, if you or your child is feeling unwell you should stay home to encourage recovery and prevent the spread of the illness to others. It's common sense and courtesy. If, while at home, you have concerns that the illness includes SARS-like symptoms, contact Health Connection for information and direction.

Will our school be informed if a suspect or probable SARS case who had attended the school while infectious emerges within the staff, volunteer or student population?

York Region Health Services is working closely with your School Board in responding to SARS. If such an incident occurs, the proper school authorities would be notified and we would work together.

Can a child whose parent or guardian is on quarantine come to school?

Yes. Quarantine applies to those who are well but may have been exposed to SARS. It is a precautionary measure to prevent the illness being spread to others. If the person in quarantine follows the proper procedures, others in the household are not at risk and may go to school or work, as usual. The full ten days of quarantine must be followed.

What about those who are returning from quarantine?

Welcome back! There have been hundreds of people in quarantine in York Region over the past few weeks. It is not an easy task to complete. Please welcome returning students, adults and staff with confidence and without fear. They have fulfilled their quarantine responsibilities and are healthy. May I say a personal word of thanks to those who have experienced quarantine first-hand. I applaud your commitment and sense of civic responsibility. You have greatly helped our efforts to contain this illness.

Should I keep my child home from school?

No. I encourage you to send your child to school if they are healthy. There is no evidence at this time that suggests the SARS infection is spread through casual contact in large groups of people, such as in schools or public settings. I have recommended that school trips, swim programs and music programs not be cancelled. In the same light, enjoy your regular family outings, attend events and take your children to their extra-curricular programs.

How can this illness be prevented?

Our advice is the same as for any infectious illness:

Should I wear a mask, just in case?

No. The routine use of masks is not recommended for healthy people. Not only is there no medical evidence to support the wearing of masks by the general public, but the sight of someone wearing a mask can cause great anxiety in others.

Can the infection be spread by touching things like walls, doorknobs, school railings, computer keyboards, library books or homework returned to school from students in quarantine?

No. There is no evidence at this time to support airborne transmission of the SARS infection. SARS is believed to be spread via droplets from coughing and sneezing, or from direct face-to-face contact. It is common sense, however, to wash your hands well and often as part of your regular routine to prevent the spread of any infectious illness.

I have heard that a SARS Assessment Clinic has opened in York Region. Where is it?

The SARS Assessment Clinic is located at 6824 Hwy. 7, at the Ninth Line in Markham. Its purpose is to assess and screen those people who are concerned that they may have exposed to or have contracted SARS, but not those people who have already been diagnosed. Clinic staff ensure that people who have been exposed are safely isolated and cared for in an environment that prevents spread of the disease.

The SARS Assessment Clinic is open from 11:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m., seven days per week. The Clinic will be closed on Sunday, April 20th. Outside of these hours, please contact Health Connection, Telehealth Ontario at 1-866-797-0000, or go to the closest open hospital emergency room. There are now five clinics opened in the Greater Toronto Area.

March 17, 2003

Dear Parents

In the past few days, there have been several media reports about atypical pneumonia, a severe respiratory infection occurring in York Region and other parts of Canada. As part of an ongoing effort to keep York Region residents informed about this illness, we are providing you with the following information.

What is this illness?

Although this illness was originally referred to as atypical pneumonia, the World Health Organization has now designated it as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). It is important for residents to be aware of the symptoms and seek medical attention if they show signs of the illness and/or have travelled to any of the countries listed within the past two weeks.

The signs and symptoms of this illness are all of the following:

Who is at risk of developing this illness?

Those at risk include people who have recently:

How can this illness be prevented?

Thorough handwashing is the best way to prevent the spread of illness. You should also avoid:

What to do?

The source of this illness is unknown and appears to be easily transmitted from person to person. If you or someone in your family develops the symptoms of SARS and have one or more of the risk factors seek medical advice as soon as possible

The Regional Municipality of York is committed to providing cost-effective, quality services that respond to the needs of our rapidly growing communities.  York Region is comprised of the following nine area municipalities:  Aurora, East Gwillimbury, Georgina, King, Markham, Newmarket, Richmond Hill, Vaughan and Whitchurch-Stouffville.  For more information, visit our Web site at:  www.region.york.on.ca

Contact: Patrick Casey, Senior Media Relations Specialist, York Region

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