Post SARS social syndrome?
Letter to the Editor:-
Post SARS-social syndrome?
Visiting Professor & Academic Co-ordinator,XXMC,P.R.China.1
Medical Sociologist, Annamalai University,
SARS is a global disaster. However, China mainland was the major
victim. Now Canada is facing relapse of the past attack of SARS. Civet
cats are shown to be the host of the corona virus causing this epidemic.
Now, preventive measures have been activated all over the world and active
case control measures are showing good results. Antibody detection
diagnostic kits are helping in rapid diagnosis of this disease. Antiviral
agents and steroid therapy are working effectively against this disease.
SARS death rates are declining to minimum in recent time.1
However, post-SARS complications are taking a critical turn in
sociological context. SARS victims are carrying a social stigma almost
equivalent to other contagious diseases like Leprosy or AIDS. After
recovery from SARS or suspected SARS, patients are discharged from
different referral hospitals with fitness certificates but they are not
getting back their previous jobs. Most of them are facing social barriers
and isolation in their own community.
A research report narrates that
among 150 patients cured from SARS, 45 persons developed psychosocial
disorders. None of them suffered from psychological ailments before SARS
Due to extensive media coverage about this disease, there is a long
standing aftereffect on the public mind about the droplet spread of
infection etc,which is probably, scaring them to accept those post SARS
patients back to their family or community.
This may be the result of illiteracy and social taboos. But it is very
important social problem in the process of resettling SARS victims in the
society after release from hospitals.
This social stigma may hinder early
case reporting to the authority and may be the root cause for relapse in
near future like Toronto, Canada. The state Governments should warn the
offenders. SARS patients once cured should be accepted by the previous
employers. Social activists and media persons should once again come
forward to develop public opinion against social stigma of SARS victims.
Social stigma of SARS exposure may discourage the health care professional
also to take proper care of SARS patients. Bold steps are needed to
neutralize all these apprehensions at the very initial stage.
People who have actually contracted SARS and then recovered appear to be a
high risk group for psychological ailments. High dose steroid therapy is
recommended for SARS treatment. It has its known side effect leading to
psychiatric ailments in some of the cases. But additional stress and
strain during SARS treatment and complete isolation from family members
and friends, may aggravate such conditions. After release from hospitals
on recovery, further social barriers may be the additional reasons to
succumb to aberrant behavioural disorders.
It may take time to come out of this post SARS syndrome. It is better to
make people aware and sympathetic towards post SARS patients and help SARS
victims to recover from their traumatic experiences. SARS related social
stigma and discrimination have been detected as a serious social problem
in Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan, Vietnam.
Dr.Margaret Chan,Hong Kong’s Director of Health, requested the public to
be more compassionate and responsible. She warned in a televised news
conference that if SARS victims are discriminated, future SARS sufferers
may get discouraged to seek proper medical attention in time.2
1.Jane Parry: Data shows that SARS is gradually coming under control.
2. Keth Bradsher :And now, SARS’ emotional toll:
The New York Times. Hong Kong, June3;
Competing interests: No competing interests