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

One New Possible Suffolk County Case Reported

ALBANY, NY, April 29, 2003 – There are a total of 42 possible cases of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) in New York State, according to the latest report issued today by the New York State Department of Health. Twenty-two of the cases are in counties outside of New York City and the remaining 20 are in New York City. This includes a new probable case reported in Suffolk County that involves a travel history to Asia. There have been no serious life-threatening illnesses among these 42 possible cases and there have been no secondary cases of SARS spread to household members or among health care workers.

There continues to be no evidence of community-acquired cases of SARS in New York State. All 42 individuals traveled to specific regions of Southeast Asia and/or Toronto, Canada, where community transmission has been documented. Only one patient remains hospitalized, while all others have recovered or are recovering, among the 22 cases reported outside of New York City.

The 22 cases outside of New York City were identified in the following counties: Broome (1), Chemung (1), Hamilton (1), Jefferson (2), Niagara (1), Nassau (2), Onondaga (4), Ontario (1), Putnam (1), Rensselaer (2), Schenectady (1), Suffolk (1), Ulster (1), Westchester (2) and a non-New York resident in Saratoga County (1). Sixteen of these individuals had a recent travel history to Asia, and six had recently traveled to Toronto, Canada.

State Health Commissioner Antonia C. Novello, M.D., M.P.H., Dr. P.H., signed an emergency order on April 10, officially designating SARS as a communicable disease requiring mandatory reporting of all suspect SARS cases in New York State. Mandatory reporting has strengthened the state's surveillance for this disease, while providing important confidentiality protections to patients.

The State Health Department continues to work closely with local health departments, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), healthcare providers and local emergency medical services (EMS) to monitor reports of respiratory illness that might be linked to SARS. 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 are being done statewide.

The exact cause of SARS is still under investigation. Scientists suspect that its cause may be linked to a newly identified Coronavirus. These viruses are a common cause of mild to moderate upper-respiratory illness in humans.

Individuals who have a recent history of travel to the affected areas in Asia and Toronto, Canada or contact with persons who have traveled to those affected areas and who have 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 two to 10 days of coming in contact with SARS.

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.

Press inquiries regarding SARS in New York City should be addressed to the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene at 212-788-5290.