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SARS cases increase in Colorado

SUMMIT COUNTY – Frisco resident Daphne Schroth was in Beijing when she found out about Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). But like the majority of Chinese people, she thought the outbreak was limited to Hong Kong.

On March 26, two days after she left Beijing, the Chinese government increased the reported number of SARS cases from 305 (reported Feb. 10) to 800 and said three people in Beijing died from the virus.

Immediately after leaving Beijing, Schroth got a terrible cold, but she wasn’t concerned because she read that almost every traveler to China returns with respiratory infections.



“They call their air advisories “smoke,'” Schroth said. “It almost felt like you were standing in a fire. My eyes, nose and throat were agitated immediately. They call it the China cough, the China cold.”

Her symptoms lasted two weeks, but she didn’t have the hallmark symptoms of SARS – a fever or a cough. She returned to her county job as the director of human services, but her coworkers had a lot of questions.



“When I came back to work, everyone was coming up to ask, “Do you have SARS?'” she said. “The first thing staff members said was, “How come you’re not quarantined?'”

The public health nurse checked her symptoms on two different occasions, and a coworker didn’t allow her kids to ride in the car with Schroth.

But the curious comments were nothing compared to the rampant fears and panic that have spread worldwide.

Hong Kong’s economy has lost tens of millions of dollars, commuters refuse to use public transportation, and people wear masks when they leave their houses. The World Health Organization has issued travel warnings to China, Toronto and Hong Kong. Schools and hospitals have closed in Beijing and Singapore.

In Colorado, state health officials identified three new suspected cases of SARS, bringing the total to 11.

The latest cases, reported Friday, involve two Denver County women – a 50-year-old and 48-year-old – and a 73-year-old male from El Paso County. The man was hospitalized in Colorado Springs but is now recovering. Two children, a 6-year-old and a toddler, also became ill April 15 but did not require hospitalization.

The other six cases included a 31-year-old Arapahoe County woman, a 57-year-old Adams County woman, a 62-year-old Boulder County man and three female nurses. One of the nurses was hospitalized March 26 at Boulder Community Hospital and released April 3. All six have recovered.

All 11 cases are the direct result of travel to China, Hong Kong, Vietnam or Singapore. Symptoms include a fever of 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit and a dry cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing.

Anyone suspected of carrying the illness should remain isolated for 10 days, the presumed maximum incubation for SARS. Travelers returning from Asia are evaluated as they deplane planes to assess whether they have SARS symptoms.

Studies from the Centers for Disease Control and the World Health Organization have identified a prime suspect of the disease – the coronavirus, a type of common cold virus. The mysteries of when, where, why and how SARS originated have caused the most alarm in the recent scare.

“One theory is that SARS came from the innermost regions in China and was ignored until it reached populated areas where public health systems found it,” said Michelle Wilson Ball, Summit County public health nurse. “Another theory is it crossed species from poultry, then mutated.”

The illness spreads through contact with respiratory secretions or body fluids, just as a cold spreads. Indications are the virus can survive on a variety of surfaces for a couple of hours. Airborne transmission has not been ruled out or confirmed. The best way to prevent transmission is to wash hands frequently and keep objects (like pencils) away from the mouth.

There are 198 suspected SARS cases in the United States, in 32 states, but there have been no deaths in the U.S. Worldwide, 26 countries have reported a total of more than 5,050 cases with 321 deaths, according to the World Heath Organization.

Kimberly Nicoletti can be reached at (970) 668-3998 ext. 245 or by e-mail at knicoletti@summitdaily.com.

Symptoms of SARS

– initial headache, overall feeling of discomfort, body aches

– fever of 100.4 Fahrenheit and above

– within two to seven days: a dry cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing

See your doctor if you experience any of these symptoms.


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