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Advice from the School about SARS: updated 17 June 03

This information updates the previous LSE website information on SARS. 

The LSE is taking the implications of SARS for the safety of staff and students extremely seriously. The School's priority is to keep staff and students as safe as practicable, to provide services as close to normal as possible, and to promote awareness of symptoms among its staff and students. The School continues to get advice from the Head of the Medical Centre; and from the independent scientifically based UK Public Health Laboratory Service. A group led by the Director is monitoring the situation continually.

The current World Health Organization advice against non essential travel applies to: Beijing, China. No other travel-related recommendations are in place. The WHO has removed its recommendation that people should postpone all but essential travel to the Chinese provinces of Hebei, Inner Mongolia, Shanxi, Taiwan and Tianjin [17 June 2003]. About 20 other countries have reported some SARS cases. The World Health Organisation has advised countries' health authorities that all international travellers leaving affected areas should be screened before departure to detect symptoms that give reason to suspect a passenger may be infected with SARS.

The worry about SARS is considerable but the medical advice is that the risk of contracting the disease is very small. In the UK the number of suspected SARS cases is in single figures despite international travel to London for several months since the initial SARS outbreak. All cases have recovered and no cases of transmission in the UK, other than those involving close person to person contact, have been reported.

On current evidence, there is no danger of contracting the infection by contact in the period before a person with SARS falls unwell. There is also unlikely to be any risk from casual contact in classes or in hall during early stages of the illness. The independent medical information does not indicate a need for you to avoid contact with students and staff who have returned from affected areas, or to wear a facemask but if some colleagues feel they wish to wear a mask that is understandable and is up to them. Frequent washing of hands, and covering the mouth when coughing or sneezing - themselves routine hygiene precautions even in normal circumstances - are advised.

The procedures, on the advice of the Public Health Laboratory Service and the Government Department of Health, are as follows. It is essential that all members of the School adhere to them:

(a) If they are symptom free, staff and students returning from SARS affected areas are not a risk to others. Those who have returned from SARS affected areas, or who are planning to travel abroad, can read Health Protection Agency advice at: http://www.hpa.org.uk/infections/topics_az/SARS/menu.htm| 

(b) Students who are well should be allowed to continue their studies as normal. The Public Health Laboratory Service, WHO and the Government Department of Health say there is no need for the quarantining of university students and we know of no UK university which plans to do so. This is also the advice being given by the United States Centres for Disease Control and Limitation http://www.cdc.gov/|  who recommend isolation be adopted only for individuals with SARS.

(c) Members of staff or student who are well but think they have come into contact with a known SARS case in the last ten days should monitor their health and read the health guidelines from the Public Health Laboratory Service at http://www.hpa.org.uk/infections/topics_az/SARS/menu.htm| 

(d) Students and staff should seek medical advice if they develop any symptoms suggestive of SARS, up to ten days after their return by calling their registered GP or the Medical Centre on 020 7955 7016. The main symptoms of SARS are high fever (over 38° Celsius), dry cough, shortness of breath or breathing difficulties. SARS may be associated with other symptoms, including headache, muscular stiffness, loss of appetite, malaise, confusion, rash and diarrhoea. The identity of the person falling ill should be reported to registry@lse.ac.uk| using the subject heading SARS, so that those who may be affected may be contacted.

(e) If a person with confirmed SARS is in a student residence, then he or she will be admitted to hospital and the matter reported to the public health authorities. If SARS is confirmed, as with any other infectious disease, all others who may have been at risk through contact with the person will be contacted and advised to seek medical attention should they develop symptoms over the next 10 days. All other precautions advised by the Public Health Laboratory Service/ Health Protection Agency to prevent spread of infection; and the protocols included in the School's existing Medical Emergency Procedure, would be followed. School officers are considering other precautionary measures for student residences.

(f) Anyone with symptoms or who has been in contact with a SARS case and is still abroad should seek medical clearance locally before attempting to travel back to the School.

(g) staff and students are advised not to travel to WHO identified areas unless essential : Hong Kong, Guandong Province (China), Shanxi Province (China), Beijing (China) or Toronto (Canada). If anyone does travel to those areas, or new ones identified by the WHO, he or she should inform the School at registry@lse.ac.uk| using the subject heading SARS.

The full advice being given to boarding schools, colleges and universities by the Public Health Laboratory Service can be viewed at http://www.hpa.org.uk/infections/topics_az/SARS/menu.htm| 

If they are symptom free, staff and students returning from the WHO identified SARS areas listed above are not a risk to others. But it would be very useful for the School to assess the number of such persons, so we would be grateful if they would identify themselves by email to registry@lse.ac.uk|, using the subject heading SARS.

The School term will begin as usual on Monday 28 April and there are currently no plans for any general changes to teaching or examination arrangements. But at the discretion of the teaching staff and students concerned, special arrangements for some seminars and classes may be made on an exceptional medical basis , such as the teacher having a history of respiratory disease or poor immune system , although there is no known medical basis for such action. The teacher concerned must obtain the agreement of his or her Convener (who will then notify the Academic Registrar); and be in contact with their students to make acceptable arrangements.

Staff and students should keep up to date with the latest information from the agencies referred to in this note, and with any further guidance issued by the School from time to time. Up-to-date information can be found at the following range of UK and international websites:

Ray Richardson
Deputy Director
28 April 2003

Updated 17 June 2003