The number of cases of Sudden Acute Respiratory Syndrome or SARS continues to climb, with concern now that the deadly illness is perhaps spreading to passengers who are not even sitting next to each other.
Health officials say there are now more than 1,400 suspected cases of the mystery illness worldwide. 53 patients have died. Still no deaths have been reported in the U.S., but the number of suspected cases in this country is 51.
U.S. doctors say that they are seeing milder cases here compared to other parts of the world. In Asian countries where the illness has hit hard, some schools are closed and thousands are quarantined. The World Health Organization is urging airlines with international flights to screen every passenger for the deadly flu-like illness.
"While the size of outbreak is nowhere near as large as global HIV infection, nevertheless, it is certain a significant number of people infected, cases continue to increase. It's infectious, so it appears proper infection controls can reduce transmission," says Dr. Jim Hughes, CDC.
Three Texans are included in the number of cases so far. A Lubbock woman who lives in Houston during the winter had traveled to Singapore in the days before her return to Houston. Her case was apparently not serious enough to be hospitalized. She is expected to return to Lubbock in a few weeks with no risk of spreading the infection here.
Two other cases, a Collin County man and a Harris County woman, had traveled separately to Hong Kong prior to getting sick. Both are recovering.
The symptoms according to the Centers for Disease Control are a fever of 100.4 degrees or more. Coughing, difficulty breathing, all of this developing after February 1st of this year, in people who traveled to Asia or are in contact with someone who did.