The Centers for Disease Control says the outbreak of the SARS virus is a wake up call for the world. The deadly virus known as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome has now infected more than 2,200 people around the world. So far, no one has died in the U.S., but 82 have died in Asia and Canada. So far no treatments for SARS have been successful. So with a growing number of cases, how is it affecting travel and should you go on that exotic summer vacation?
Four cases of SARS have been reported in Texas all of them in the Houston area. One of the four lives in Lubbock part of the year, but SARS has not been found in Lubbock. However, this mysterious illness is stirring some concern over travel to the far east.
Each day national travel sends dozens of clients all over the world. Ann Nelson with National Travel Systems here in Lubbock says the SARS scare isn't keeping frequent flyers grounded. "We are the biggest travel agency in West Texas. I just sent four to Vietnam. They left of the 13th of March. They got along just fine," says Nelson.
But SARS cases are increasing along with concern. "Because it's a new bug it's getting a lot of international attention also because of international travel," says Ken Condon, with the Lubbock Health Department.
Disease Investigator Ken Condon says the first case recorded was in China back in February and now people traveling to and from that region are spreading the disease. "Someone could come from Hong Kong to Houston to Lubbock and bring SARS to us if we're not careful," says Condon.
The Lubbock Health Department receives hourly updates and SARS and if it reaches Lubbock, Condon says they're prepared to handle it. "Once a case is suspected then it's our job, my job and my colleagues to go out and do a case investigation," says Condon.
For now travel agents here are not telling clients to cancel flights, just be careful about where they go. "As of today we've had one cancellation for a local business man. We've been telling our clients of a state issued travel advisory all people with non-essential travel to the Far East," says Nelson.
The regions that are affected most by SARS include Canada, Singapore, China and Vietnam. Condon says airports in those regions are performing medical exams on passengers and also giving them masks to keep the illness from spreading. The Lubbock Health Department told us that these masks filter out 95% of disease causing bacteria.
So ultimately traveling to the far east is not recommended but with the right precautions can be safe.