Thursday, June 19, 2003

Airport still alert to SARS danger

By Willliam Croyle
Enquirer contributor

ERLANGER - It was 100 days ago - March 12 - when the World Health Organization first announced the danger of SARS, Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome.

And while the WHO reports that the number of SARS cases has slowly diminished over the last few weeks, the Greater Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport remains on alert.

EMS representatives from the airport and the state epidemiologist addressed the Kentucky Interim Joint Committee on Health and Welfare at the committee's monthly meeting Wednesday at Toyota's North American headquarters.

"They're as ready as they can be," state epidemiologist Steven Englender said of airport employees. "There are literally millions who come through a facility like that in a year, and they've done a wonderful job making sure they know how to deal with it and protect themselves."

All Kenton County Airport Board employees have been trained in respiratory protection, including what symptoms to look for and how to handle situations where someone might have contracted the virus.

Englender said there have been 8,500 SARS cases reported worldwide, with fewer than 1 percent of those reported in the United States.

However, many of those cases have been reported in Toronto, where nine flights to Cincinnati originate each day.

"An airport is integral in the movement of diseases," said Englender.

That's why this issue is being closely monitored by state health officials.

"The airport is ready," said Sen. Dick Roeding, a member of the health and welfare committee.

"They have not only coordinated this with the EMT, fire department and police, but also with the U.S. Department of Health. Everybody is ready."


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