Press Release

Martin outlines next steps in SARS Action Plan

Speaking today at the IMO Conference in Killarney, Micheál Martin TD, Minister for Health and Children today, April 25 2003 reiterated the measures that are in place and those that will be coming on stream over the coming days to further advise and inform the public in relation to SARS.

The Minister confirmed that an action plan for dealing with the SARS issue has been in place since mid-March. Actions already taken include:

  • the establishment of an Expert Committee on SARS which has already met 8/9 times
  • the provision of specific SARS information to professional health groups eg.GP’s and health professionals in hospitals and Accident and Emergency Departments
  • public information notice advertising in national newspapers about precautions on travel
  • the establishment of a surveillance and response network across the public health sector
  • the immediate establishment of a national network of Senior Co-ordinators at Health Board level, as a response to the Public Health Doctor’s industrial action. The coordinators monitor and report on suspect cases throughout the country.
  • Establishment of an Incident Room with a dedicated national call number in the Department of Health & Children; staff are available at all time to deal with issues that may arise in Health Boards. Reports on queries that may arise are issued twice daily from Health Boards to the Incident Room.
  • Ensuring that the country’s experts in Virology, Respiratory Infections and Infectious diseases are available to advise and assist in the diagnosis and treatment of suspected SARS cases.

Many of these actions meet the guidelines circulated by the European Commission’s Communicable Disease Network Committee (CDNC) this month. The Department and the health boards are continuing to monitor developments both nationally and internationally.

The Minister also detailed measures that will be coming on stream over the coming days to provide advice and information to the public –

  • Public information leaflets will be distributed to all arriving passengers at airports, ferry-ports and train stations. This initiative is a further step to keep informing the general public about Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). People arriving in this country from affected areas need to be aware of the health risks posed by the SARS Virus. The leaflet will ask if people have recently visited SARS affected areas or had close contact with a person with SARS, it will outline the symptoms to look for and the give steps a person should take if required
  • In addition, information desks will be in place to provide advice and assistance for those arriving to this country. Public Information announcements will also be carried on all aircraft and ferries, which will further reinforce that advice. A help-line will be put in place for the general public to call if they have queries.
  • Advertisements will be appearing in the national press this week and the local press next week again reiterating this important public health message.

The Minister said these latest actions on public information are part of an on-going assessment and review by the Department and the expert committee. He said that he and his officials will continue to look at various measures that might be required and they were continuing to develop response plans in the event of the SARS situation developing further.