The global Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) outbreak earlier this year resulted in over 8,000 probable cases and in excess of 900 deaths worldwide. While the World Health Organization currently reports no human cases of SARS worldwide, it warns of the possibility that the disease will return. Now is not the time to become complacent about this disease, but instead we need to prepare in case it returns. SARS maybe down for the moment, but it certainly is not out.

While the Department of Defense was fortunate to not experience any known cases among service members, last year's outbreak was a serious wake-up call. We need to be prepared, not only for future outbreaks of SARS, but for other emerging diseases that can impact our service members, their beneficiaries, and our national security mission.

DoD has followed CDC's lead and have taken steps to prepare for another outbreak of SARS. We have enhanced our surveillance of respiratory diseases worldwide and increased the capabilities of our laboratories to help in diagnosing SARS cases. Our hospitals have begun to prepare to treat SARS cases and have instituted procedures to reduce the risk of spreading the disease within our treatment facilities. And we have already implemented many of the practices the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) outlined in their draft SARS recommendations.

There are a few very basic things that we all can do to help prepare for SARS and reduce our risk for respiratory infection (including flu) in general. First, read the newspaper, watch the news and check the websites, such as, for information on SARS. Being informed on the disease is good medicine. Then, follow good hygiene practices to reduce the spread of germs.

Prevent the spread of SARS:

Wash your hands frequently
Avoid touching your face
Cover your mouth when you sneeze
Avoid sick people if possible
Get plenty of sleep
Eat a healthy diet

Symptoms of SARS:

Fever over 100.4
Body aches
General discomfort
Some patients also develop a dry cough 2-7 days after symptoms onset
Keep checking back at this website from time-to-time for updates on SARS. In the event that SARS reemerges we will provide information on how DoD is dealing with the disease and what you can do to further protect yourself.