UK vigilant over Sars

May 2, 2003

Aston University has sent letters to about 200 of its international students from countries affected by Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, asking them not to attend lectures for ten days and to watch out for symptoms if they have been home for the Easter holiday break.

As more deaths were reported and more regions became affected, nearly all UK institutions posted advice on their websites based on government and World Health Organisation guidelines for the benefit of students arriving from or based in high-risk countries.

There has been no move so far to quarantine returning students or staff.

Some universities have advised students in countries where there have been Sars cases to return home. Other institutions have asked students coming back from these countries to report to their health centres.

About 100 students from the UK are believed to be in Beijing. London University's School of Oriental and African Studies, which has 23 students at Beijing Normal University, has advised them to return home as soon as possible.

A spokeswoman for Soas said: "The school has been in constant touch with the students, and our position has been arrived at after consulting extensively with the BNU authorities and with other British universities that have students in Beijing."

Durham University, which has 12 students in Beijing, has issued the same advice, while Nottingham University is offering health screening to students returning from China, Hong Kong or Singapore in the past ten days.

London Metropolitan University has taken on additional staff to provide health screening and to monitor twice daily anyone who has been in close contact with someone who has Sars.

But Leeds University has told its students and staff: "There is no need to avoid contact with staff or students who have returned from affected areas, and no need to quarantine such individuals."

A Universities UK spokeswoman said: "Universities take the welfare of all their students - both home and international - very seriously and so of course will be closely monitoring the Sars situation and the latest Department of Health/government guidelines."

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