Ever notice how the SARS scare, prevalent as it was six months ago, has disappeared to barely discernible oblivion?
It is hard to believe that six months ago, SARS was as ubiquitous as news can come. Like Tom Cruise or Britney Spears, any information on SARS was guaranteed to make news. SARS was synonymous with news.
The industry could have done without the unprecedented travel advisory that the World Health Organization issued, the media circus that followed, and the loss in revenue, which to this day are still not back to pre-SARS level.
While no one wants to foresee how debilitating a new SARS scare can be, the fact remains-- SARS remains an industry concern. Given that SARS scare is an act two that we are certain no one wants to see, how prepared is the industry in tackling its possible reemergence? Has this question ever been even raised? What preemptive measures can we implement to reduce the likelihood of SARS reemerging?
Based on what we know, it was about this time last year in Guangdong, China when the first case of SARS surfaced. Given this bit of significant information, we must act accordingly. Being agents of travel in whatever capacity, as a travel agent or a tourism minister, everyone in the industry can partake in preventing act two of the SARS scare from happening.
To avoid the reemergence of SARS, the industry should encourage travelers to seek vaccination against the flu. Vaccination reduces the risk of acquiring the potentially fatal and still ambiguous SARS. The Fujian flu is now engulfing the United States and Europe, therefore, those planning to travel to these areas should be vaccinated before they travel. Vaccination should also be encouraged for travelers to known SARS affected areas. While the quest is on for a SARS vaccine, this vaccine composition was recommended by the World Health Organization.
The WHO issued the following update on SARS vaccine: "If we are to develop a SARS vaccine more quickly than usual, we have to continue to work together on many fronts at once, on scientific research, intellectual property and patents issues and accessibility. It is a very complicated process involving an unprecedented level of international cooperation which is changing the way we work. However urgent the need for a vaccine, safety and quality must never be compromised. But, it is clear the sooner we can develop a vaccine against SARS the better prepared we will be in case the disease reappears," says Dr. Marie-Paule Kieny, Director, WHO Initiative for Vaccine Research.
The industry should take on a proactive role. This entails securing an effective flow of information. Suspected or probable cases should be reported as succinctly with as many details as possible. Doing so will give little allotment for spin doctors to dangle with the information. Those who complain about the media's sensational take on news stories should be cognizant of the simple logic is- if precise information is available, the media wouldn't have to speculate. The more precise the information, the lesser room is given for spin doctors.
Now is the time to take action for preempting SARS. Complacency, as we know it, has an incredibly high price. Let us learn from the last scare. Simple in face value, but certainly has varying implications. Wherever you fall on the SARS affected areas spectrum, be keen on getting involved in making sure that SARS scare sequel never takes place. Prevention, as we all know, should garner the strongest focus.
The main symptoms and signs of SARS include high fever (>38°C); one or more respiratory symptoms including cough, shortness of breath, difficulty breathing; and, one or more of the following close contact with a person who has been diagnosed with SARS, recent history of travel (previous 10 days) to areas with recent local transmission of