MIA workers would like to see
precautions against SARS
- unions to request more information on killer
With reports of more than 150 suspected cases of Severe Acute Respiratory
Syndrome (SARS), the World Health Organisations emergency travel
warning has been a source of much anxiety with Malta International Airport
"This syndrome, SARS, is now a world-wide health threat,"
said WHO Director General Dr Gro Harlem Brundtland, "The world
needs to work together to find its cause, cure the sick, and stop its
The exact nature of the infection is still under investigation, and
the speed of international travel creates a risk of rapid spread to
Air Malta stewards and hostesses have already shown concern about the
situation, with the Union of Cabin Crew having already held discussions.
USS President Leo Vella told The Malta Financial and Business Times
yesterday the union will be asking MIA to provide more information:
"We want to be warned by management of any people on the ground
with symptoms pertaining to SARS, or any incoming tourists from high-risk
areas. We cannot obviously disallow anyone from travelling, and we certainly
dont want to appear discriminatory in the way we treat our passengers.
"The situation is very delicate and we have to see how the matter
Elsewhere on the ground, incoming tourists are reportedly being screened
by health officials at the Malta International Airport, although security
staff have already shown concern.
MIA security officials told this newspaper the monitoring of incoming
tourists had not been placed in their competence and that MIA health
officials were inspecting incoming tourists for any symptoms of SARS.
But news of the disease outbreak in other European cities, namely Frankfurt
and London, has caused anxiety amongst MIA ground security. Sources
close to this paper said they would soon be consulting MIA management
to have protective face masks introduced and to be protected from any
Meanwhile, Union Haddiema Maqghudin Deputy Secretary-General Joe Grillo
informed this newspaper that the union had already had talks with MIA
management. The company has told UHM that it will soon be taking all
necessary precautionary measures to ensure the safety of its workers
at the airport.
Since mid-February, WHO had been actively analysing the outbreaks of
a severe form of pneumonia in south-east Asia. In Vietnam the outbreak
began with a single initial case who was hospitalised for treatment
of severe, acute respiratory syndrome of unknown origin. Following his
admission to the hospital, approximately 20 hospital staff became sick
with similar symptoms.
The most common symptoms of SARS are high fever, muscle aches, headache
and sore throat. In some, but not all cases, this is followed by bilateral
pneumonia, progressing to acute respiratory distress requiring assisted
breathing on a respirator.
The disease is spread from person to person but only through close contact
with a case. To date, almost all reported cases have occurred in health
workers involved in the direct care of reported cases or in close contacts,
such as family members. There is no evidence to date that the disease
spreads though casual contact.
The WHO Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network is co-ordinating
11 laboratories in 10 countries to identify the cause and an effective
treatment for SARS.
Information on cases compiled over the past three weeks is expected
to shed new light on the behaviour of this disease.