California, gateway to the Pacific rim and home to the nation’s largest Asian population, has the highest number of suspected U.S. cases of a mysterious new respiratory illness that first appeared in Asia. But state and local health officials say the disease is well under control, and all of those sick with severe respiratory acute syndrome, or SARS, are recovering or expected to recover.
California, gateway to the Pacific rim and home to the nation’s largest Asian population, has the highest number of suspected U.S. cases of a mysterious new respiratory illness that first appeared in Asia. But state and local health officials say the disease is well under control, and all of those sick with severe respiratory acute syndrome, or SARS, are recovering or expected to recover.”This doesn’t seem to be a disease that people are picking up at the grocery store or at a bus station,” said Dr. Susan Fernyak of the San Francisco County Health Department. “It’s not time to run out and buy white surgical masks.” The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention in Atlanta reports that California has 19 suspected cases — the most for any state. And state health officials say they are investigating another 12 cases. Of those 31 suspected cases, at least 17 travelled to southeast Asia in recent weeks, and three others share homes with travellers to Asia. No health care workers have been infected so far, state health officials said Wednesday. Authorities aren’t sure why California’s cases appear to be less virulent than those in Asia, where most of the deaths — at least 78 worldwide — have occurred. Fernyak said California’s cases may be from third or fourth generations of the germ, which could weaken each time it is passed along. Also, the state’s different climate and lower population density may be factors, she said. But these are just theories. No one has conclusively proved what causes the disease, although U.S. health officials say they are 90 percent sure it’s a new form of the coronavirus, one of the causes of the common cold. The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention has asked local health departments to help track down 140 Americans who stayed at Hong Kong’s Metropole Hotel on February 21 or February 22, the same time a Chinese doctor who was dying of the disease was staying there. Most of those people — 118 — are from California. On Tuesday, an American Airlines flight from Tokyo was isolated on the tarmac at San Jose’s international airport after the captain reported that five people on board might have symptoms of SARS. It turned out to be a false alarm. Dr. Jonathan Fielding, Los Angeles County director of public health, notes that the number of suspected cases in California is small considering the state’s population of 34 million. Health officials also say the number seems low because California is home to 3.7 million Asians and a key point in the brisk tide of people crossing the Pacific Ocean. San Francisco, with a population that’s 31 percent Asian, has reported just a single suspected case. At least 11 other people in the surrounding San Francisco Bay Area are suspected of falling ill. Los Angeles County has reported seven possible cases. (Source: CNN)