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    CDC Now Says 51 Suspected SARS (Severe Flu/Pneumonia) Cases in U.S. Spanning 21 States, Including CA

    (March 28, 2003) -- The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that as of March 27, the number of suspected cases of the sometimes fatal flu/severe pneumonia termed "Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome" (SARS) has grown to 51 (an increase of six cases from yesterday) and now encompasses 21 states (an increase of one state from yesterday).

    CDC did not provide further details about the location of the SARS cases. In a CDC telebriefing today, Dr. Jim Hughes, Director of the National Center for Infectious Diseases, said:

    "So far, happily, there have been no deaths attributable to SARS in patients in the United States." Of the 41 suspected U.S. cases, "44 are associated with travel to areas where we know transmission is occurring. Five cases are occurring in people who have had contact with people who are ill with SARS, and there are two health care a result of caring for one patient with a suspected case."

    A CDC web page entitled "Information for Clinicians," posted on March 27 at 11:50 a.m. PST [caveat: check CDC site below for frequent updates] stated:

    The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization have received reports of patients with severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) from Canada, China, Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of China, Indonesia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam. The cause of these illnesses is unknown and is being investigated. Early manifestations in these patients have included influenza-like symptoms such as fever, myalgias, headache, sore throat, dry cough , shortness of breath, or difficulty breathing. In some cases these symptoms are followed by hypoxia, pneumonia, and occasionally acute respiratory distress requiring mechanical ventilation and death. Laboratory findings may include thrombocytopenia and leukopenia."

    Dr. Hughes indicated that the case fatality ratio for cases internationally is 4 percent. "We're encouraged that many of these patients with SARS are improving over time," Dr. Hughes said, but added, "we know that this is a very severe illness. We know it is causing great concern for patients, for family members, and for health care workers."

    He indicated that much laboratory work continues CDC and in a World Health Organization-supported network of laboratories worldwide to try to find the cause of the illness. "The evidence in favor of this illness being caused by a previously unrecognized virus in the group of viruses known as corona viruses continues to mount. I'm not prepared that we're ready to say it's definitive evidence yet. Much work remains to be done. But the preponderance of the evidence as it evolves here and in other laboratories around the world is consistent with a previously unrecognized corona virus playing an important role," Dr. Hughes said.

    On questioner asked about transmission of the illness. Dr. Hughes said:

    "We have to keep an open mind here in terms of exactly how this transmission occurs. Whether it's by physical contact or by large droplets that spread over short distances, or possibly through contamination of articles in the inanimate environment that might be handled. And then finally we have to keep open the possibly that this is transmitted at least in some cases by the airborne route. There's no evidence of that today but we are keeping a very open mind in that regard, I assure you."

    Dr. John Jernigan from CDC's Division of Health Care Quality Promotion said:

    "To date, all the patients with SARS in the United States have been either in persons with history of foreign travels, or transmission with close contacts."

    As reported by, on March 23, the CDC issued an interim travel advisory warning U.S. citizens (especially those traveling with children) to defer nonemergency travel to Vietnam, and continued suggesting postponement of non-essential travel to Hong Kong and PRC's Guangdong Province until further notice, as a result of SARS.

    Because this is a fast breaking story, we advise readers to check for updates on the CDC's SARS web page.

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