Environmental and Occupational Health Response to SARS, Taiwan, 2003


Industrial hygiene specialists from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) visited hospitals and medical centers throughout Taiwan. They assisted with designing and evaluating ventilation modifications for infection control, developed guidelines for converting hospital rooms into SARS patient isolation rooms, prepared designs for the rapid conversion of a vacated military facility into a SARS screening and observation facility, assessed environmental aspects of dedicated SARS hospitals, and worked in concert with the Taiwanese to develop hospital ventilation guidelines. We describe the environmental findings and observations from this response, including the rapid reconfiguration of medical facilities during a national health emergency, and discuss environmental challenges should SARS or a SARS-like virus emerge again.

The outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) placed unprecedented demands on healthcare practitioners- healthcare institutions, and public works personnel worldwide. Taiwan reported the third largest number of SARS infections and deaths, followed by Hong Kong and mainland China (1). At the request of the Taiwan Department of Health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) sent staff to Taiwan that included epidemiologists, infectious disease experts, and environmental and logistical specialists. Industrial hygienists were requested to investigate and help develop guidance for hospitals about patient isolation rooms, personal protective equipment, general infection control, and hospital health and safety.

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