State Health Department Investigating Nine Cases of Possible Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS)

Nearly All Patients Have Recovered; None Are Considered Seriously Ill

ALBANY, NY, April 1, 2003 – The New York State Department of Health is investigating nine cases of respiratory illness that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) believes may represent cases of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). Although suspect cases have previously been identified by New York City health officials, these are the first cases in the State outside of New York City.

The suspect SARS cases were identified in Jefferson County (2), Onondaga County (1), Putnam County (1), Chemung County (1), Broome County (1), Ulster County (1) and Rensselaer County (2). Each of the individuals had a recent travel history to Asia. Most have fully recovered from the sickness and none are considered seriously ill.

SARS is a respiratory illness, most likely an atypical pneumonia, that was first reported in parts of Asia. Health officials suspect it is caused by a virus, but the exact type of pathogen is not known. Serious SARS cases have now been reported in Canada, China, Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of China, Indonesia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam.

"We have been working closely with local health departments and the CDC to monitor reports of respiratory illness that might be linked to this new syndrome," said State Health Commissioner Antonia C. Novello, M.D., M.P.H., Dr.P.H. "The fact that all nine of these individuals have recovered or are expected to recover soon is testament not only to our surveillance capabilities, but to New York's tremendous medical system. Clearly, given our extensive experience in responding to emerging diseases such as West Nile Virus, no State is better prepared than New York to conduct aggressive and effective case surveillance and treatment."

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 to and with health care providers throughout the public health system.

Persons at risk for SARS are those who recently traveled to Southeast Asia and have had close contact with SARS patients, for example – family members or health-care providers who have cared for SARS patients in the hospital. People usually become sick within one to 10 days of coming in contact with SARS.