Two additional suspect cases of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) have been reported to the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS). Both individuals have completely recovered. These additional cases bring the total of number of New Jersey cases to five. Four of these cases are residents of New Jersey and one is a student at a New Jersey university.
One new case involves a 68-year old woman who traveled to Asia between March 14 and April 2. The woman developed a cough on March 23 and a fever on March 25. She was hospitalized overnight in China and was released the following day after resolution of the fever. The patient’s cough subsided on March 30. She returned to New Jersey on April 11 and has recovered. Family members, who were in contact with the patient while her illness was resolving, remain healthy.
The other new case involves a Seton Hall University student (South Orange campus) who was visited on April 5 by a family member who is suspected of having a case of SARS. The student had symptoms of a respiratory illness before being exposed to the family member and developed fever and worsening respiratory symptoms after the exposure. The student was never hospitalized and is currently doing well.
In response to the above information, DHSS and Seton Hall University administration sent a joint email to students, faculty and employees this morning advising them of the suspect case. Classes at Seton Hall University resumed today after the holiday weekend.
DHSS and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have offered the following guidance to the Seton Hall University community:
Any student, faculty member, or employee who was on campus between April 5 and April 15 and developed or develops the following symptoms between April 6 and April 26 should immediately contact Seton Hall University’s student health services or a physician of their choice.
“The primary means of SARS transmission is close, person-to-person contact,” said Health and Senior Services Commissioner Clifton R. Lacy, M.D. “Individuals who report fever or respiratory symptoms will be assessed for contact with the suspect case and receive appropriate evaluation and testing.’’
“Most of the suspect cases of SARS may ultimately be determined to be the result of other viral respiratory illnesses, and not SARS,’’ said State Epidemiologist and Assistant Commissioner Dr. Eddy Bresnitz. “It is important that we remain vigilant and investigate close contacts of every suspect case.’’
The three previous New Jersey individuals had all traveled to Asia, and there have been no reported cases of SARS transmission to people in contact with them. The first New Jersey resident suspected of contracting SARS is fully recovered, the second is recovering at home and the third was discharged from a Pennsylvania hospital and was diagnosed with another illness.
To date, CDC has reported 190 suspect and 38 probable SARS cases nationwide, including one probable and two suspect cases in New Jersey. There have been no deaths in the United States. The World Health Organization (WHO) reported 3,947 probable cases worldwide in 27 countries, including 229 deaths, as of April 22, 2003.
SARS is a form of atypical pneumonia occurring in a person who has traveled to a country with an outbreak or come in contact with a person with SARS. SARS begins as an influenza-like illness, with such symptoms as rapid onset of high fever, muscle aches, headache, sore throat, dry cough and shortness of breath. X-rays may show pneumonia and/or other abnormalities. Laboratory tests may show low numbers of white blood cells and platelets. Some cases worldwide, but only one in the United States, have involved respiratory failure requiring mechanical ventilation.
The WHO has recommended that people traveling from certain SARS-affected areas be screened before they board airplanes. Upon arrival in the U.S., travelers receive an alert developed by CDC. The travel alert reminds passengers to monitor their health for at least 10 days, see their health care provider if they get sick, and report their travel history.
Anyone who gets sick while traveling in an area affected by SARS should limit contact with others and avoid further travel. To find a local health care provider, individuals should contact the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate.
The DHSS holds weekly teleconferences with New Jersey hospitals and public health agencies to provide updates, explain how to identify potential cases, and detail appropriate reporting mechanisms.
Health care providers in New Jersey have been instructed to immediately report any suspected cases by telephone to both the DHSS and local health officials. The DHSS maintains close communication regarding SARS with CDC and New Jersey’s public health and health care communities.
The Department has also sent out transportation guidelines to the state's 30 advanced life-support programs, the state’s 155 basic life-support programs and New Jersey’s hospitals and public health agencies.