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SARS Patients Experience Mental Health Decline

Canada-The many survivors of the 2003 epidemic severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) recovered physically but many suffered lingering mental health problems, according to a new study.

The epidemic Severe Acute Respiratory syndrome (SARS) became a global epidemic in 2003. Most cases were in Asia, and the largest concentration of North American cases occurred in Toronto, Ontario," it killed 800 people around the world, including 44 in Toronto. Severe acute respiratory symptom, caused by a coronavirus, attacked the lungs of those who were infected.

"The longer-term physical and psychological consequences of SARS were not reported until recently." Most Investigations of the disease have focused on lung function, distance walked in six minutes and health-related quality of life, but a one-year followup study of 117 SARS survivors has found 51 of them needed mental health services.

Catherine M. Tansey, M.Sc., University Health Network, Toronto, and colleagues, evaluated 117 SARS survivors from Toronto who were discharged from the hospital in 2003. Patients were evaluated three, six and 12 months after leaving the hospital by undergoing a physical examination, a six-minute walk test, a lung function test, a chest X-ray and quality-of-life measures and reporting how often they saw a physician.

General health, vitality and social functioning remained below the normal range one year after discharge from the hospital. Many patients returned to work part-time, increasing their workload over the first two months while 23 patients returned to work full-time with no need for a modified schedule. At one year, 17 percent of patients had not returned to work, and a further 9 percent had not returned to their pre-SARS level of work.

Dr. Margaret Herridge, a critical care doctor at Toronto's University Health Network, and her colleagues report their findings in Monday's issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine.
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