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Lung Disease & Respiratory Health Center

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Mysterious Pneumonia Cases Still Growing

New Evidence Shows Virus Is Likely Cause of SARS Outbreak


Most of the SARS cases are concentrated in Hong Kong, Vietnam, and Singapore, but other suspected cases have been reported in southern China, Taiwan, Switzerland, Canada, Germany, Slovenia, Spain, Thailand, and the United Kingdom.

The CDC says it is currently investigating 13 reports of potential SARS cases in California, Hawaii, Maine, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, and Wisconsin.

CDC Director Julie Gerberding says none of these cases have been confirmed, and all involve people who recently traveled to affected areas. At this time there is no evidence of SARS being transmitted locally from person to person in the U.S.

Gerberding says severe acute respiratory syndrome appears to be transmitted only through close, personal contact with an affected individual, such as a family member or healthcare worker of an infected individual. There is no evidence to suggest that casual contact with someone with SARS can result in infection.

Symptoms of the pneumonia or the respiratory illness caused by SARS develop within two to seven days after exposure. A CDC health alert advises travelers to Southeast Asia to seek medical attention immediately if they become ill with a fever and respiratory symptoms, such as cough or difficulty breathing, within 10 days of travel to affected areas. A related travel advisory also states that U.S. citizens planning nonessential travel to the regions affected by the SARS outbreak may wish to postpone their trips until further notice.

At this time, officials say there is no reason to believe that this mysterious pneumonia might have unnatural causes or is an example of a bioterrorist attack. The pattern of pneumonia outbreak is what would normally be expected from a contagious respiratory or flu-like illness, but CDC officials say they are keeping an open mind about the issue.

Click here for answers to commonly asked questions about severe acute respiratory syndrome.

SOURCE: News release, World Health Organization. News release, CDC. ProMED-mail, "Severe acute respiratory syndrome - worldwide (09)" March 19, 2003. WebMD Medical News: "New Clues on Killer Pneumonia Outbreak."

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