No real threat of SARS outbreak here

Published 4:54 am Friday, May 16, 2003

By By BEN RAYMOND LODE / Niles Daily Star
NILES -- Only three suspected cases of SARS, the highly-contagious respiratory disease affecting the lungs, have been reported in Michigan, and no new cases have been reported in the state since mid-April.
The three cases, none classified as "probable," were reported in Kent and Washtenaw counties and were all from people who had travelled in areas where SARS has been documented.
Jim Rockhill, infection control practitioner at Lakeland in Niles, however, said so far there have been no secondary cases of SARS in Michigan, or the U.S.
However, he said Lakeland is still reminding those who have travelled in areas where the disease has been widely documented, such as Toronto, China, Singapore, Hong Kong and Vietnam, about the precautions they should take before entering a hospital.
The precautions for those people, he said, should include putting on a mask before entering the hospital and putting a gown over clothes to prevent the disease from possibly spreading to people in the waiting rooms.
The reminders are in the form of signs put up in the hospital's in and out patient areas, he said
He said if there is a suspected case of SARS, Lakeland, like other hospitals in the country, have negative pressure rooms they can house patients in to contain the disease if necessary.
Those unaware of SARS symptoms, Rockhill said, might be interested to know that the Cardinal symptom of the disease is high fever over 100.5 F.
Which is also what differentiates the disease from a lot of other respiratory diseases, where there is no fever involved, he said.
Although the Center for Disease Control is still unsure of the source of transmission for SARS, they currently believe it is airborne, Rockhill said.
He advises those who have travelled in areas where the World Health Organization or the Center for Disease Control have put out travel advisories, and are symptomatic to the disease, to stay in their homes until symptoms have abated.
According to the Center for Disease Control, a suspected case is a person with a respiratory illness of unknown origin; a temperature of at least 100.4; one or more respiratory symptoms such as cough, shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, or low blood-oxygen levels; travel within within 10 days of symptoms to an area with documented or suspected SARS cases, or close contact within 10 days with a person who has been in an area where SARS has been documented.
Rockhill said it's too early to say how long SARS will be around but he said the plan is still to eradicate the disease,
However, because Chinese authorities didn't take the disease seriously enough in the beginning, and for a long time didn't do anything to stop it, makes it hard for anyone to guess how long it will take.