SARS scares many - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

SARS scares many

March 17, 2003

Craig Smith's computer has been flooded with email lately. As director of Albany's Center for Infectious Diseases he subscribes to several worldwide alerts, all of them buzzing about a mysterious southeast asian illness.

"Syndrome resembles flu but all flu tests been negative to date," Dr. Craig Smith said. 

So far Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome has killed nine people. And of the hundreds infected some are thought to have travelled through Atlanta's Hartsfield International Airport. 

Still memos sent out by District Health Departments are geared towards those who have travelled to Southeast Asia lately, or are considering it, one patient at Albany's travel medicine clinic today was asking about an upcoming business trip to Singapore.

"If I can't tell for sure what risk you are going in to, common sense is you shouldn't go," Smith said.

Young, healthy travellers would likely survive even a deadly pneumonia strain.  In the next few weeks researchers should know more about what they are dealing with. Until then, there are many things for the CDC to consider. 

"The question now is, is it a true new disease, an old disease that's become more contagius, or are the cases not related?"

One thing that seems clear given the virus's pattern of development, it's not a case of bioterrorism.

The Symptoms of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome include fever and other respiratory distress. Only people who have travelled to Asia within a week of showing symptoms are likely victims at this time.

posted at 6:50 p.m. by dave.d'marko@walb.com