Mystery Flu Traced Back to Hong Kong Hotel - KCBD NewsChannel 11 Lubbock

3/21/03

Mystery Flu Traced Back to Hong Kong Hotel

U.S. health officials are now investigating 22 potential cases of Sudden Acute Respiratory Syndrome, or SARS, and two of those are in Texas. One woman remains hospitalized in Houston, the other case is reportedly in the Dallas/Fort Worth area with no other information on that yet.

Health officials do say that the Houston woman had traveled to Hong Kong recently and that is an important clue right now. Worldwide, there are more than 300 suspected cases. 22 of those are scattered across the U.S.

Suspected U.S. cases include three in California, two in North Carolina and one each in Hawaii, Maine, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico, Tennessee, Virginia and Wisconsin.

In searching for the source of the mystery illness, investigators keep returning their focus to a cluster of patients, including two Americans, who stayed at the same hotel in Kaloon, Hong Kong. "The two Americans were staying on the 9th floor of the hotel which is the place where almost all of the international cases appear to have been exposed initially," says Julie Gerberding, of the Centers for Disease Control.

Health officials say given the times we're in, they are keeping an open mind about bio-terrorism. Even though at this point, this mystery bug appears to be a naturally occurring infectious disease. CDC scientists say it still appears the germ is spread through close contact with an infected person.

Officials in Hong Kong are working to contain spread of the disease in schools. Six children there have been infected with the illness. Experts believe the children contracted the illness from family members who are healthcare workers.

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