The independent news organization of Duke University

Duke patient shows SARS symptoms

A patient who arrived at the emergency room of Duke University Hospital Tuesday night may have SARS, the Herald-Sun of Durham reported Thursday.

According to a memo released Wednesday to Duke University Health System employees, the patient is "being treated as a special interest case" by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"CDC doesn't consider this a 'suspect' case at this time," Carol Schriber, a spokesperson for the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services, told the Herald-Sun. "Whether that will change, I don't know. There are no cases in the state right now that warrant the 'suspected case of SARS' categorization."

Although it has not yet been determined whether the Hospital actually had a Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome case on its hands, the patient is currently under quarantine at home along with his family, the memo stated. The patient was released Tuesday from the Hospital Tuesday after doctors consulted with state public health officials and CDC guidelines.

The memo also stated that the nine health care workers who were exposed to the patient are also being monitored, and precautionary measures are being taken to prevent the spread of the virus, should it turn out to be SARS.

Confirmation of the SARS case will require blood and swab test results, the Herald-Sun reported.

Schriber said Wednesday that a patient with a suspected case would show symptoms such as a fever, headache, dry cough and/or difficulty breathing. The patient also would have had exposure to a known SARS case or would have traveled to certain parts of Asia or Toronto, the Herald-Sun reported.

Schriber said she was familiar with the Duke patient's case but would not say where the patient resided or if he had traveled abroad recently.

State public health officials will hold a briefing at 10:30 a.m. today to update the media on statewide SARS investigations. Schriber declined to say how many cases the department and CDC were investigating, according to the Herald-Sun.

As of yesterday, the United States has had 391 suspected and 70 probable cases of SARS in 42 states, in addition to the eight confirmed cases, according to the CDC.

Worldwide, there have been more than 8,435 cases and 789 deaths, according to the World Health Organization. The worldwide mortality rate of people with SARS is about 8 percent, according to the CDC.

The outbreak surfaced first in China and spread across the Orient and beyond, stretching as far away as Toronto, which has seen two SARS outbreaks in recent months.


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