Local News

Co-Workers At UNC-Chapel Hill Worry About Exposure To SARS Patient

Posted June 12, 2003

— North Carolina public health officials will hold a briefing Thursday to update the SARS situation in the state.

Monday, an Orange County man was confirmed as having the state's first confirmed case of severe acute respiratory syndrome. The diagnoisis has raised concerns with co-workers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill about their exposure to the disease.

Officials at UNC said at least two people who worked with the man are showing signs of respiratory difficulty.

The man, whose name has not been released, is the eighth confirmed case of SARS in the United States and the first in North Carolina.

He worked as an energy consultant and did not have direct contact with students.

UNC-Chapel Hill's director of environment, health and safety said the state health department is closely monitoring the two employees to make sure they do not have any SARS symptoms.

"It's a brand new disease, we don't know a lot about its incubation period, how other people get the disease," said Peter Reinhardt of UNC Health Services.

Reinhardt said while many workers are on edge about SARS, the situation could be more than just perception.

"There have been employees who have had respiratory symptoms, fevers, and the health department has been involved in getting information from those people and we've been careful in getting them medical care that they need," he said.

The man diagnised with SARS traveled to Toronto in May and visited a relative in a rehabilitation hospital that is now the site of three SARS cases.

It is not yet known when the man got sick and whether he might have been contagious when he returned to work at the Chapel Hill campus.

On Tuesday, public health officials met with workers who spent time with the man to calm their fears.

Eighteen days have passed since the patient called in sick from his job. Infectious disease experts say the incubation period for SARS is typically 10 days.


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