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News Release

   PO 360
   Trenton, NJ 08625-0360

   For Release:
  March 19, 2003

  Clifton R. Lacy, M.D.

For Further Information Contact:
Donna Leusner
(609) 984-7160

New Jersey Reports Suspected SARS Case

TRENTON -- The Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS), in collaboration with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), is investigating a suspected case of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) in New Jersey, one of 11 suspected cases being investigated in the United States.

A 36-year-old female complained of fever and cough on February 8, 2003, while still in the U.S. She traveled to Asia on February 19, and about five days later developed worsening fever and cough.

Despite receiving medical attention in Asia, the patient's condition worsened, prompting her to return to the U.S. on March 2. She was admitted to a North Jersey hospital the same day for atypical respiratory illness.

Her clinical condition improved sufficiently to allow her to be discharged to home on March 17. Family members who accompanied her to Asia and hospital employees who treated her in New Jersey have shown no signs of the respiratory illness. No other suspected cases have been reported in New Jersey.

Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) is a form of atypical pneumonia occurring in a person who has traveled to a country with an outbreak or come in contact with a person with SARS. SARS, the cause of which has not yet been identified, begins as an influenza-like illness, with such symptoms as rapid onset of high fever, muscle aches, headache, sore throat, dry cough and shortness of breath. X-rays show pneumonia and/or respiratory distress syndrome. Laboratory tests show low numbers of white blood cells and platelets. Many affected individuals have experienced respiratory failure requiring mechanical ventilation.

"The emergence of SARS reinforces the importance of aggressive disease surveillance for rapid detection of health threats,'' said Health and Senior Services Commissioner Clifton R. Lacy, M.D.

As of today, a total of 306 suspect or probable cases including ten deaths have been reported from 10 countries: Canada, China, Germany, Singapore, Slovenia, Spain, Thailand, the United Kingdom, the United States and Vietnam. Hong Kong, Hanoi and Singapore continue to be the most affected areas, according to the World Health Organization.

On Saturday, March 15, DHSS received a health alert from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and immediately transmitted information to hospitals and public health agencies explaining how to identify potential cases and appropriate reporting mechanisms. Health officials in New Jersey have been instructed to immediately report any suspected cases by telephone to both DHSS and local health officials. The department conducted a series of conference calls Monday with public health officials and hospitals to review the available information and answer questions.

The World Health Organization has urged all travelers to be aware of the symptoms associated with SARS. CDC has developed travel alerts for individuals entering the United States. DHSS will maintain close communication with the CDC and New Jersey's public health and health care communities.

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Department of Health and Senior Services
P. O. Box 360
Trenton, NJ 08625-0360

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