Frequently asked SARS questions
Q: What is SARS?
A: The World Health Organization announced that a new pathogen, a member of the coronavirus family never before seen in humans, is the cause of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).
Q: How is SARS spread?
A: According to the CDC the primary way that SARS appears to spread is by close person-to-person contact. Potential ways in which SARS can be spread include touching the skin of other people or objects that are contaminated with infectious droplets and then touching your eye(s), nose, or mouth. This can happen when someone who is sick with SARS coughs or sneezes droplets onto themselves, other people, or nearby surfaces. It also is possible that SARS can be spread more broadly through the air or by other ways that are currently not known.
Q: What is a coronavirus?
A: According to the Penn State Aerobiological Engineering pathogen database, Coronaviruses are one of the causes of the common cold. They account for about 15% of cases of the common cold. Coronaviruses can infect other animals besides humans but strains are general specific to one host. Coronaviruses have an incubation period of 1 – 4 days and are 0.06-0.22 microns in diameter.
Q: How is the spread of SARS prevented in healthcare settings?
A: The CDC recommends that staff use standard precautions (e.g. Hand washing), contact precautions (e.g., use of gown and gloves for contact with the patient or their environment) and airborne precautions (e.g., an isolation room with negative pressure relative to the surrounding area).
Q: Should patients suspected of having SARS undergo aerosol generating procedures?
A: The CDC recommends that “aerosol-inducing procedures should be performed on patients who may have SARS only when such procedures are deemed medically necessary. These procedures should be performed using airborne precautions as previously described for other infectious agents, such as Mycobacterium tuberculosis; Guidelines for Preventing the Transmission of Mycobacterium tuberculosis in Health-Care Facilities.”
Q: Can airborne Coronaviruses be removed from the air by HEPA air purifiers?
A: HEPA filters are 99.97% efficient removing particles 0.3 microns in size from the air. Theoretically, 0.3 microns is the most penetrating particle size for HEPA filters. Therefore, HEPA filters can be expected to be even more efficient on particles both larger and smaller than 0.3 microns in size. We should expect then that HEPA filters would be effective in removing particles the size of Coronaviruses.