KING COUNTY, WASHINGTON - Two King County residents have been listed as the first suspected cases of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) in Washington state. Both individuals were exposed outside of the United States, and there has been no evidence of transmission from these cases to other King County residents.
"These cases have recovered, and we believe they do not pose a risk to the public. There is no evidence of transmission to other county residents," said Dr. Jeff Duchin, chief of Public Health — Seattle & King County's Communicable Disease Section. "In fact, the current definition for SARS is intentionally extremely broad, and it is likely that not all people classified as cases at this time have SARS."
The first case is a crewmember aboard a cargo ship that docked briefly at the Port of Tacoma, and the second case is a child in Seattle. "Though we were initially concerned about those aboard the ship, no one needed to be admitted to the hospital, and they are all doing well," said Dr. Jo Hofmann, state epidemiologist for communicable disease.
Local health departments and health care professionals in Washington state have been notified to be on the lookout for the symptoms associated with SARS, especially in people who, in the 10 days before illness onset, have traveled to certain areas in Asia or been in close contact with someone who has.
Public Health — Seattle & King County and the state Department of Health have been continuously informing the medical community regarding SARS management and screening guidelines for providers, as well as travel guidelines to the general public. The agencies are closely monitoring the situation, and there is currently no cause for alarm in King County or Washington state. Dr. Hofmann, who was part of a team that evaluated ill crewmembers aboard the ship, says none of the sailors had the severe respiratory symptoms typical of SARS. The evaluation team determined there was no need to quarantine the ship or limit the travel of the crewmembers. The crew, including the 44-year-old Washington man, continued their voyage on-board the cargo ship. All members of the crew are reported healthy and feeling fine.
SARS is a new disease that appears to have emerged from parts of Asia. The cause is unknown, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization say there is some evidence it may be a corona virus, the same family of viruses that cause the common cold. The definition of a case is evolving as more is learned about this emerging disease. Currently, it includes the following:
- Measured fever of 100.4 degrees or higher.
- Symptoms of respiratory illness, such as cough, shortness of breath, or difficulty breathing AND
- Recent travel to Hong Kong or mainland China; Hanoi, Vietnam; Singapore; OR
- Close contact with persons with respiratory illness who have traveled to any of these locations
More information is available on the Washington State Department of Health SARS Health Alert Web page
www.doh.wa.gov/sars.htm and the Public Health — Seattle & King County SARS Health Alert Web page.
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