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Reports of mystery illness multiply

http://www.jewishworldreview.com | (UPI) -- Reports on the mystery illness dubbed severe acute respiratory syndrome continued to stream in from different corners of the world Tuesday.

In the United States, the number of suspected cases has reached 72, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported, although so far there have been no deaths attributed to the disease.

"We knew it was coming," said Katy Hoskins, CDC spokeswoman, who also explained why no deaths have been reported in the United States: Because they had a heads up, U.S. health officials could take preventive action quickly, she said.

The estimated number does not include three airline passengers at a California hospital under evaluation. About 200 passengers on an airliner that landed in San Jose, Calif., were prohibited temporarily from getting off the plane when the pilot was told a few passengers and crew members were exhibiting symptoms similar to those associated with SARS.

The three people on board who were ill were taken to a local hospital, a California Health Department spokeswoman told United Press International.

California has one of the highest numbers of U.S. suspected cases -- 20, including three people who fell ill after household members returned from travel in southeast Asia, the spokeswoman said. The other 17 had been to Asia, where the vast majority of cases has been reported.

Additional suspected SARS cases in the United States were reported Tuesday in Vermont, Massachusetts, Washington, North Carolina and Colorado.

Globally, the World Health Organization reported cases have topped 1,800 among 17 countries. The number of people who have died has risen to 62, or 3.4 percent of suspected cases. These figures do not include new cases being reported by local media in Indonesia and the Philippines, where three and 31 cases, respectively, are suspected. In addition, CNN reported Tuesday two more deaths in Canada possibly associated with SARS.

According to other reports from around the world:

-- On Monday, more than 240 residents of an apartment complex in Hong Kong were evacuated to vacation camps in the countryside for isolation to try to minimize transmission. Hong Kong's health department is requiring the residents of Block E of Amoy Gardens to be quarantined for 10 days. WHO reported 107 of the residents lived in apartments, one atop the other, suggesting a possible pattern of transmission not seen in other affected areas.

-- The New Zealand Herald reported health authorities were "considering asking tour groups from countries affected by the deadly pneumonia virus SARS to postpone traveling here."

-- The Bangkok Post reported the following mandate issued by the Public Health Ministry: "All travelers returning from Hong Kong, China, Vietnam, Singapore and Taiwan must stay home for at least 14 days or face legal action."

-- The Straits Times in Singapore reported a possible source of the SARS virus: "'WHO is working on a theory that the virus has its source in farm animals in southern China,' a source from the Geneva-based body told (Agence France-Presse) in Manila."

The CDC is about 90 percent sure the virus responsible for severe acute respiratory syndrome is a new strain of coronavirus, Hoskins told UPI.

This possible isolation of the cause of SARS could lead to better methods of identification and treatment of the virus that has prompted travel advisories, a global health alert and jitters about a sometimes fatal disease.

The key to containing the disease will be physician vigilance and high-level compliance with health guidelines, said Dr. Jeffrey Drazen, editor in chief of the New England Journal of Medicine.

However, Dr. Susan McLellan, infectious disease and tropical medicine expert at Tulane University in New Orleans, told UPI a real problem might arise if the disease starts spreading in poor countries such as India and regions such as sub-Saharan Africa.

Unlike the United States, Canada and other wealthy countries, nonindustrialized nations have poor reporting systems, she said, and the virus will be difficult to contain.

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