A possible Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome case under examination at the University Hospital was determined yesterday to have been a false scare.

University of Michigan Health System spokeswoman Kara Gavin said the case did not meet the definition of the mysterious respiratory disease outlined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – a list of symptoms and travel history that characterize a suspected case.

According to the CDC, a total of 2,223 suspected and/or probable SARS cases have been reported to the World Health Organization from 16 countries. The reported cases include 78 deaths, or 3.5 percent of the total cases.

Gavin said cases that meet all of the criteria in the definition are called “suspect,” because there is no blood test for SARS that can give a definitive answer.

“All SARS cases are considered suspect cases until the CDC can exactly identify what exactly SARS is,” said Geralyn Lasher, a spokeswoman for the Michigan Department of Community Health.

Epidemiology Prof. Arnold Monto said although scientists do not have enough data at this time, many believe the cause of SARS is probably a coronavirus – the cause of the common cold.

“The current theory is that it might have jumped species and it may be a coronavirus of birds,” Monto said, who has performed research on corona viruses.

Monto said because it is a new disease, there is no immunity in the population. “I think people need to behave cautiously,” Monto said. “We’ve not seen something like this in a while,” he added.

Gavin said the patient at the University Hospital is still being treated as a SARS case because of the possibility of future developments, although doctors have determined that it doesn’t meet the disease criteria. There have also been precautions implemented to deal with potential cases in the future.

“We will continue to be vigilant with suspected people and cases,” Gavin said.

To date, there have been three cases of SARS reported in Michigan. Two are in Kent County and one is a New Hampshire man currently at a Wayne County hospital. “All three individuals are in good condition and are continuing to improve,” Lahser said.

Lasher said it is likely that state health officials may have to deal with future cases. “I don’t think we’d be surprised to see additional cases given the ease of international travel,” Lasher said.

Rackham student Christine Wong said many of her friends from Hong Kong are reconsidering travel plans to go back home for thesummer.

“When I talked to people in early March, most of them still didn’t have any problems with going back, but now that the World Health Organization has put out such a blanket warning, a lot of people are thinking about canceling,” Wong said.

Wong said she is concerned about relatives in Hong Kong and Toronto – both areas that have been hard-hit with SARS. “I’ve talked to my parents in Toronto and all the places that are usually crowded with Chinese people are pretty deserted,” Wong said. But she said her parents don’t seem that concerned.

“Actually, just a couple days ago, my mom went to a Chinese mall knowing that there’d be less people there,” she said.

Gavin said because of increased awareness of the disease there have been calls to the hospitals by people concerned that they might have contracted SARS. She recommended that students consult the CDC’s website.

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