Thursday, May 1, 2003

1st case of SARS hits Tristate



By Dan Klepal
The Cincinnati Enquirer

SARS has found its way to the Tristate.

The region's first suspected case of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome has been confirmed in Northern Kentucky. Health officials cannot release the patient's name, age, gender or any other identifying information because of confidentiality laws.

But they say the patient is in voluntary home isolation and doing well.

The Northern Kentucky case - as well as three others in Kentucky, two suspected and one probable - are said to be "contained" and pose no threat to the general public. There have been 11 suspected cases and one probable case reported in Ohio, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In Indiana, CDC figures show, there is one suspected case reported.

A suspected SARS patient is defined as a person who has traveled to a country where there is community transmission and has developed a cough and a fever (100.5 degrees or higher).

Probable SARS patients have all of that and an X-ray that shows pneumonia or respiratory distress syndrome.

Countries with community transmission are: Peoples Republic of China (including mainland China and Hong Kong); Singapore; Vietnam; Taiwan, and Canada (Toronto).

Gwenda Bond, spokeswoman for the Kentucky Cabinet of Health Services, would not say which of those countries the Northern Kentucky patient had been traveling in. She said the patient went to an area hospital after coming down with the symptoms. The patient's chest X-ray came back negative, Bond said.

"We're just asking people to keep the risk of contracting SARS in perspective," Bond said. "There have been no deaths in the U.S. from SARS, while 36,000 people died from the flu last year. At this time, there really is not general community transmission going on.

"We understand people are concerned, but they shouldn't be alarmed at this point. It's too early for that here," she said.

SARS was first recognized in China in November. There are 274 suspected cases and 52 probable cases under investigation in the United States. Worldwide, there are 5,462 probable cases.

Common sense hygiene, particularly washing hands, is the best way to prevent the spread of all communicable disease including SARS, said Dr. Rice Leach, commissioner of the Kentucky Department for Public Health.

"It is encouraging to see how much public health and medical care professionals have been able to manage this situation while research organizations continue their work to improve treatment and prevention," he said.

More information on SARS is available at www.cdc.gov/ncidod/sars. SARS information can also be obtained by phone at (888) 246-2675.

E-mail: dklepal@enquirer.com




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