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Two new SARS cases suspected in Connecticut

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Associated Press Writer

March 27, 2003, 4:59 PM EST

HARTFORD, Conn. -- Two new suspected cases of the deadly flu-like illness known as SARS have been found in Connecticut, the state Department of Public Health said Thursday.

Department of Public Health Commissioner Joxel Garcia said neither victim is seriously ill and the risk of transmission to other Connecticut residents was minimal.

Both victims are believed to have been exposed to severe acute respiratory syndrome while traveling outside of the United States, Garcia said.

One person apparently contracted the disease three weeks ago while traveling in Hong Kong and the Guangdong province in China. He received outpatient treatment, Garcia said.

"The individual is not seriously ill and is recovering at home," he said.

The other, a student at the University of Connecticut, is hospitalized in fair condition.

The Department of Public Health said the student had traveled on an international flight earlier this month and was exposed to a person thought to have SARS.

The student attended classes on Monday and Tuesday before becoming ill, the department said. University health workers visited the student's classes Thursday to explain the illness, and the campus was alerted by e-mail.

"The president sent out a blast e-mail to all students, faculty and staff letting everybody know the situation," said University of Connecticut spokesman Richard Veilleux. "Apparently, the student had been in several other places on campus. Hopefully the e-mail will reach everybody."

The e-mail, posted on the University of Connecticut's health services Web site, tells students who may have had "close casual contact" with the student to monitor their health until April 4.

"It is not clear whether the student even has SARS and it is unlikely that anyone had the level of contact with the student sufficient to acquire it," the e-mail says.

The Department of Public Health will monitor the campus for any further suspect cases, said Jim Hadler, state chief of infectious diseases. "Close contact" is usually limited to family members or people the infected person lives with, Hadler said.

"We decided to err on the side of safety and keep an eye on this person's potential contacts. We can't say that everyone at the whole university is at risk," Hadler said. "We think the risk is very, very low."

The department did not identify either victim or say where in Connecticut they live, citing confidentiality rules.

The two new cases bring the total of suspected cases in the state to three. Another resident developed SARS symptoms in early February after returning from a trip to China and Hong Kong.

Diagnoses of the disease are difficult, because symptoms mirror the common cold and the disease is new to the United States.

The symptoms include fever of 100.4 degrees or higher, coughing, shortness of breath, and difficulty breathing.

Asia has been hardest-hit by the disease, which has a 4 percent death rate. Three people in Canada have died from it. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported 51 suspected cases in the United States on Thursday.

Federal health officials announced on Monday that the mysterious illness appears to be caused by a new variety of a common cold virus.

Copyright 2003, The Associated Press


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