April 28, 2003 – To date there have been no reported cases of SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) in the Virgin Islands.
Rumors circulating on St. Thomas over the weekend that a case of SARS had been detected were just that — rumors.
The rumors likely started when an older man who had recently traveled to the Far East was admitted to Roy L. Schneider Hospital with bronchial problems, according to a knowledgeable source.
As a precaution, the man was isolated — a normal procedure, Amos Carty, the hospital's chief operating officer, said Monday evening.
Testing detected no sign of the SARS virus and the patient did not have the accompanying symptoms of dehydration or a high fever, according to another source.
However, to be on the safe side, a culture has been sent to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for further testing.
Carty said the test results should be in by the end of the week. He said he thought the patient might still be in isolation but reiterated that this is a part of the hospital's normal procedure.
SARS continues to be a concern everywhere — especially for tourism the sector.
The World Health Organization recently issued a travel advisory for Toronto. Canada is the only country outside of Asia where people are reported to have died of SARS.
Since November, when SARS first surfaced in southern China, 330 people are known to have died worldwide, 21 of them in Canada.
Officials of Carnival Cruise Line have said they don't expect SARS to have a financial impact on the company's operations, although Asian travel has dropped off dramatically, according to an article appearing in The New York Times this week. The general travel downtrend appears to be a result of the Iraq conflict, not the SARS virus, Carnival officials said.
In late March, the V.I. Health Department issued a release saying there had been no cases of SARS in the territory but that should there be, the department was prepared. Health Commissioner Mavis Matthew said she had received information about the disease and had shared it with the territory's hospital medical directors and health-care providers.
According to the Centers for Disease Control Web site, it is thought the disease has been spread by people traveling to areas where the virus has been detected such as China, Hong Kong, Vietnam and Singapore, where it appears to have originated.
"CDC advises that people planning elective or nonessential travel to mainland China and Hong Kong, Singapore, and Hanoi, Vietnam, may wish to postpone their trips until further notice, the Web site states.
The disease is spread by "close person-to-person contact," according to the CDC. Specifically, people can become infected by "touching the skin of other people or objects that are contaminated with infectious droplets and then touching your eye(s), nose, or mouth." CDC officials believe most people have become contaminated while caring for others with SARS.
The Web site also states there may be other unknown means of transmitting the disease more broadly, such as "through the air."
SARS has an incubation period of seven to 10 days.
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