Local News

Sixth Suspected SARS Case Announced In North Carolina

Posted April 10, 2003 5:53 a.m. EDT

— A Wake County child who recently visited Asia with family members has been identified as having the

sixth suspected case in North Carolina

of a mysterious flu-like illness, state health officials say.

The child, who was not identified, was isolated at home Wednesday, according to the state Department of Health and Human Services. The young child does not attend school or child care, officials said.

State health officials said the child is not sick enough to be admitted to a hospital but was under isolation to prevent possible spread of the infection to others. They said there is no known association between this case and two others in Wake County.

The announcement came a day after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention identified an Iredell County health worker as having a suspected case of severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS.

In addition to three suspected cases in Wake County, there is one each in Orange and Mecklenburg counties. Officials said all those individuals have either fully recovered or ar expected to do so, and all of them recently traveled to Asia.

Dr. Jeff Engel, the state's epidemiologist, said the female in Iredell County came in contact with a Mecklenburg County patient before developing a fever of more than 102 degrees and a cough late last week. She did not, however, travel to Asia, making the case worrisome to state officials.

"You never like to think this is transmissible in your own state," Engel said.

Engel said his office investigates all calls that come to it, adding that most of the cases turn out not to be suspected SARS.

More than 2,600 people have been infected worldwide with SARS, with more than 100 deaths. Most of the infections have occurred in China and Hong Kong. The United States has had no deaths from the disease, but there have been about 150 suspected cases in 30 states.

About 95 percent of SARS victims recover, but there is no cure. Symptoms include fever, aches, dry cough and shortness of breath.

The health care worker was being treated for her symptoms at home.

Ten people who had been in contact with the unidentified worker have been notified but have shown no signs of the illness. The state declined to release where the health care employee worked.

There is no way for suspected cases to be confirmed right now. The CDC is working on potential tests for SARS, but getting them to health officials may be weeks or months away.

State officials will consider whether to require emergency health care workers to wear surgical masks to reduce the spread of the illness, but it may not be practical, Engel said.

"People should be cautious, but not afraid," Engel said. "The best way to avoid the spread of an illness like SARS is to observe good health practices, especially frequent handwashing. SARS has not been spread by casual contact, so there should be no concern about exposure during people's everyday routines."