State Health Department Update on Cases of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS)

There Is No Evidence of Community-Acquired Cases of SARS In New York State

ALBANY, NY, April 24, 2003 – The New York State Department of Health today reported that there are a total of 37 cases statewide of respiratory illness that are possible incidents of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). Nineteen of the cases were identified in counties outside of New York City and the remaining 18 in New York City.

Based on a review of all 37 cases reported statewide to date, the onset of symptoms exhibited by patients indicates that these individuals acquired the respiratory illnesses during travel and/or stays in specific regions of Southeast Asia and Canada. There is no evidence of community-acquired cases of SARS in New York State. None of these individuals had serious life-threatening illness and there have been no secondary cases of SARS spread to household members or among health care workers.

The 19 SARS cases outside of New York City were identified in the following counties: Broome (1), Chemung (1), Hamilton (1), Jefferson (2), Niagara (1), Nassau (1), Onondaga (4), Ontario (1), Putnam (1), Rensselaer (2), Schenectady (1), Ulster (1), Westchester (1) and one non-New York Resident was diagnosed as a suspect case of SARS in Saratoga County. Fifteen of these individuals had a recent travel history to Asia and four had recently traveled to Toronto, Canada. Of the 19 cases outside of New York City, one patient remains hospitalized while all others have recovered or are now recovering.

Patients with suspect or probable diagnoses of SARS have been isolated as a standard infection control measure while they recovered or continue to recover from their illness.

The State Health Department remains in close communication with physicians, hospitals and local health departments to ensure prompt recognition of suspect cases, immediate implementation of infection control measures, immediate reporting of any suspect cases to the local health departments, and appropriate diagnostic testing in suspect cases. The Department is also in close contact with local emergency medical services (EMS) to quickly identify possible SARS cases and to reinforce the implementation of proper infection control measures to protect EMS personnel and patients.

New York State's disease surveillance and monitoring capability has been dramatically expanded in recent years through enhancements to electronic data management and improved communications with health care providers throughout the public health system. The enhanced high-tech data systems include the use of The New York State Health Alert Network (HAN) and the State Health Information Network (HIN) to communicate critical information to health care providers and local health departments in the event of a public health emergency.

The State has also established the state-of-the-art Hospital Emergency Response Data System (HERDS) to provide State health officials with instant access to critical information about hospital capacity and medical assets in the event of a disaster, disease outbreak or terrorist-related health emergency. The HERDS combines Geographic Information Systems and a comprehensive, interactive data base to provide health officials with online, real time data describing available hospital beds, medical supplies, personnel, numbers, stats and immediate care needs of ill or injured persons, along with other urgent information to facilitate a rapid and effective response.

SARS is a respiratory illness, most likely by a previously unrecognized virus. Individuals who have a recent history of travel to the affected areas in Asia and Canada or contact with persons who have traveled to those affected areas and who developed a fever greater than 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit and respiratory illness - such as a cough, shortness of breath and difficulty breathing - should immediately contact their primary care physician.

People usually become sick within one to 10 days of coming in contact with SARS.

In addition to the updates posted on the DOH website, the State Health Department will issue daily press release updates on SARS cases Monday through Friday and on weekends as necessary. Additional information on SARS may be obtained through the New York State Health Department: www.health.ny.gov the New York City Health Department of Health and Mental Hygiene: www.nyc.gov/html/doh/html/home/home.shtml, and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: www.cdc.gov.

Questions specific to cases in New York City should be addressed to the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (212-788-5290).