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Colorado virus free

GLENWOOD SPRINGS – What a week it’s been. First, the Front Range blizzard, then the war in Iraq . and now, a possible case of a deadly virus detected in Colorado.

Fortunately for us, that potential case of an international virus appears to be a false alarm.

Earlier this week, a 32-year-old California man vacationing in Colorado was admitted to the University of Colorado Hospital. The man had recently returned from a month-long trip to Hong Kong and Indonesia and had flu-like symptoms similar to those found in patients with Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome. SARS was initially detected in mainland China last November, and was later found in Hong Kong and Hanoi, Vietnam.



Worldwide, there are now 350 SARS cases currently confirmed, though the University of Colorado Hospital patient was the first potential case of the illness detected in the state.

“The man’s symptoms fit all the criteria for SARS,” said Cindy Parmeter, the director of communications at the Colorado Department of Health and Environment in Denver. Those symptoms include a temperature over 100 degrees, coughing, sore throat, muscle aches, shortness of breath, difficulty breathing or a diagnosis of pneumonia. Those suspected of the illness also must have had close contact within 10 days with another person with a confirmed case of SARS, or must have traveled to an area with documented cases of SARS.



Fortunately, Parmeter confirmed Friday the man’s health had improved through the week, and that medical officials do not consider him a candidate for the virus.

“He didn’t develop pneumonia,” she said, which is the typical next step for patients with SARS. Tests to determine exactly what was wrong with the man were sent to the Centers for Disease Control, though Parmeter couldn’t confirm when those results would be available.

Mary Meisner, Garfield County public health services nursing director, is based in Rifle. She said Friday she sent health advisory bulletins to all physicians and medical facilities in Garfield County, providing the latest updates on SARS.

“There’s enough epidemiology that they’ve been able to pinpoint the start of SARS with one person staying in a hotel,” Meisner said of work being done to track the spread of the disease. The CDC is closely tracking locations where SARS is being detected, including the discovery of at least seven cases of the illness on the ninth floor of the Metropole Hotel in Hong Kong.

Although the virus does kill, it’s not always fatal. SARS doesn’t respond to typical medications and antibiotics used to treat the flu or pneumonia, though Meisner said researchers are actively pursuing treatment.

Meisner said although SARS isn’t a direct threat to local residents, it’s important for the medical community to be aware of its symptoms and to keep updated on its status.

“We’re advising anyone who is involved in foreign travel to Hong Kong, the Chinese province of Guangdong, Vietnam or Singapore to consider postponing travel, or to use masks when traveling into those spots,” she said.

Hong Kong has reported 203 cases, the largest number of cases of SARS, resulting in six deaths, followed by Vietnam with 62 cases and two deaths, and Singapore with 39 cases and no deaths. The United States has reported 13 cases, followed by Canada with nine and Switzerland with seven. Taiwan has reported six cases, Thailand, 4, and the United Kingdom, 2. Germany, Italy, Ireland, Slovenia and Spain have all reported one case each.

Within the United States, California has reported three cases, followed by North Carolina with two. Hawaii, Maine, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico, Tennessee, Virginia and Wisconsin each have one case apiece under investigation.

Contact Carrie Click: 945-8515, ext. 518

cclick@postindependent.com


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