SARS cases in Arizona, Virginia

By CHRIS H. SIEROTY, United Press International  |  April 8, 2003 at 11:53 PM
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A third Virginian was diagnosed Tuesday with the mystery illness known as severe acute respiratory syndrome, while health officials in Arizona identified the state's first suspected case of the disease, which has killed more than 100 people worldwide.

The patient in Phoenix had traveled to Hong Kong and became ill within a week of returning.

Dr. Jonathan Weisbuch, director of public health for Maricopa County, said the patient was hospitalized and is recovering. He is expected to be released from the hospital soon and to be isolated at home for up to 10 days.

"The general public does not appear to be at risk for infection from SARS due to this suspect case on Maricopa County," Weisbuch said. "At this time, the only people who could potentially be at risk are health care workers caring for patients with SARS and close family members."

Health offcials declined to release the man's name or any other identifying information.

In Richmond, Va., state health officials said the infected person, whose identity was not disclosed, is a Hampton Roads adult who recently traveled to parts of Asia that have been associated with SARS. The health department said the person has recovered and is not contagious.

"We do not believe the general public is at risk for infection from SARS as a result of any of the cases in Virginia," State Health Commissioner Dr. Robert B. Stroube said in a statement. "The only people who could potentially be at risk are health care workers caring for patients with SARS and close family contacts."

The two other suspected cases in Virginia are in Chesapeke and Loudon County. Both victims have been released from the hospital, health officials said. Both also had recently traveled to Asia.

"We are pleased that these suspected cases are all doing well and want to assure the public that we have no additional infections and these individuals do not pose a public health risk," said Dr. John S. Marr, Virginia's state epidemiologist.

Weisbuch, meanwhile, warned residents to seek medical attention if they exhibit any SARS symptoms. The highly contagious disease is characterized by a dry, unproductive couch with a fever of 100.5 or higher and is believed to affect people who recently traveled to Mainland China, Hong Kong, Vietnam, Singapore and Taiwan.

As of Tuesday, the World Health Organization reported 2,671 people have been stricken by SARS and 103 have died from the illness worldwide.

No deaths have been reported in the United States, although SARS patients have died in Canada, China, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

WHO officials also said several countries, including the United States, have started using a new laboratory test to diagnose the illness in patients. Health officials now suspect a new form of coronavirus causes SARS.

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