First SARS Case of 2004: Now What?
Confirmed SARS Case in China Prompts Drastic Actions
Jan. 7, 2004 -- News of the first confirmed case of severe acute respiratory disease in China has prompted drastic actions by Chinese officials, including the extermination of thousands of wild animals thought to carry the virus.
But CDC officials say one isolated case of SARS is not yet cause for concern or travel restrictions.
"One case is not a reason to sound the alarm," says CDC spokesman Tom Skinner. "But it's something that we at CDC and others in public health around the world are taking very seriously. It's certainly not unexpected that we would see SARS re-emerge."
"We are continuing to monitor the situation, but as of right now no travel advisories or warnings are warranted at this point," Skinner tells WebMD.
Infectious disease experts say that the fact the systems currently in place allowed for the detection of a single, isolated case of SARS in China bodes well for the prospects of containing the disease and preventing future outbreaks.
"This was someone who presented with fever and respiratory complaints and was picked up because everybody is watching very carefully for SARS," says Jon Temte, MD, PhD, of the University of Wisconsin.
"Until there is documentation of spread to other people and more widespread contagiousness you're not going to see a whole lot of alarm," Temte tells WebMD. "I think that's appropriate."
First SARS Case Signals Return of Deadly Virus
On Jan. 5, the World Health Organization announced that two independent laboratory tests confirmed SARS as the cause of illness in a 32-year-old man in the southern Chinese province of Guangdong. The television producer has been in isolation in a Chinese hospital in the provincial capital of Guangzhou since Dec. 20.
In response to the case, Chinese officials identified and evaluated 81 contacts of the patient. All 25 close contacts and 39 casual contacts have been released from quarantine and are said to be doing well. The 17 healthcare workers who have been in contact with the infected patient will be kept under observation until 14 days have passed since their last contact with the patient.
Chinese officials also ordered the killing of an estimated 10,000 exotic animals, mostly ferret-like animals called masked palm civets. Research has linked several early cases of SARS to contact with many of these wild animals sold for human consumption at Chinese markets. However, no animal reservoir of the SARS coronavirus has been conclusively identified to date.