- The Washington Times - Friday, April 25, 2003

A Maryland woman who recently visited China is suspected of carrying the SARS virus and has been quarantined with her family, officials said yesterday.
The Anne Arundel County case is the second under investigation by health officials, who have also isolated a Baltimore health care worker who recently visited Canada and is showing symptoms of severe acute respiratory syndrome.
The 45-year-old woman was doing better yesterday, said Dr. Sohail Qarni, a physician and epidemiologist tracking the case for the Anne Arundel County Health Department.
"We think she will be OK," Dr. Qarni said. "But [SARS] is very difficult to predict, and it can go from bad to worse at a very quick turn. That's just the nature of this illness, and that is what people are wrestling with."
The Millersville woman showed up at an emergency room Monday with a temperature of 101, feeling lethargic and suffering from a dry cough and shortness of breath all symptoms of SARS. She also had returned two weeks ago from a trip to Guangdong province in China believed to be ground zero of the virus's origins with her husband and their 1-year-old son.
The entire family will remain quarantined for at least another eight days, though the father and son have no symptoms, Dr. Qarni said.
The state's more severe case of suspected SARS appears to be a 40-year-old medical resident in Baltimore who may have contracted it during a recent trip to Toronto. He remained quarantined and under observation yesterday at Johns Hopkins Hospital.
Officials refused to release the names of the two patients.
Meanwhile, U.S. health officials bucked the World Health Organization (WHO) and refused to issue a travel warning regarding Toronto.
Dr. Julie Gerberding, director of the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), said the spread of the disease can be linked and predicted, and that travelers are not at risk of contacting SARS if they follow basic guidelines.
"We understand the patterns of transmission in Canada. There is no suggestion travelers going to Toronto are inadvertently coming into contact with SARS patients," Dr. Gerberding said.
There are 140 reports of SARS in Canada with 67 persons listed as having recovered and 15 recorded deaths.
Travelers should avoid health care facilities that treat SARS patients and take precautionary steps, such as regularly washing hands with soap and water, she said.
The WHO on Wednesday warned travelers to postpone nonessential travel to Toronto, Beijing and China's Shanxi province. The WHO had previously warned about travel to Hong Kong and Guangdong province.
Jon Linden, WHO spokesman, said the organization will not change its travel advisory, which is in effect for three weeks.
"The reason is that Toronto fits the three criteria for such a warning: that there is an increase in cases, that there is a geographic spread in cases and that there is an export of cases," Mr. Linden said.
The CDC earlier this week issued precautions to take while traveling to Canada, and Dr. Gerberding said there needs to be a global agreement on criteria to issue travel warnings.
The WHO yesterday reported that there were 4,439 SARS cases worldwide, with 2,117 persons listed as recovered and 268 deaths.
In the United States, there are 39 cases listed as "probable," and no deaths have been reported. Laboratory testing has begun, and six patients have been confirmed as virus carriers.
The WHO travel warning threatens to severely affect Toronto's economy, which accounts for one-fifth of Canada's economic output, and prompted alarmed city officials to hold an emergency meeting yesterday.
"It's not the disease that's doing the damage, it's the public perception about SARS that's hurting Toronto's tourism industry. And it's getting worse," Mayor Mel Lastman said.
Conventions have been canceled, and Chinese restaurants and hotels face financial difficulties. Officials say it will cost the economy tens of billions of dollars.
A spokeswoman for the U.S. Bureau of Customs and Border Protection said it is too soon to tell whether the volume of traffic over the northern border will decrease because of SARS fears.
SARS is scaring customers away from New York's Chinatown neighborhood, but not its counterpart in the District. Most restaurants were packed yesterday in the small neighborhood near the MCI Center in downtown Washington.
"I think hunger pretty much beats out any fear of SARS we might have," said a Justice Department employee who declined to give her name. She and two co-workers stood outside the Eat First restaurant, holding bags of food they planned to take back to the office.
Nearby, tourists photographed each other in front of the grand Chinese archway that rises near the intersection of Seventh and H streets NW.
Jiating Xu, who immigrated from Shanghai to the District in 1992, visited friends who run the gift shop beneath the Wah Shing Kung Fu School, where two customers looked over the inexpensive T-shirts and trinkets on display.
"I feel safe here. SARS is not so much in America. I'm not worried," said Mrs. Xu, a resident of the Wah Luck House apartment building.
Meanwhile, SARS has been ruled out in two other suspected Maryland cases, a Hong Kong woman visiting Baltimore and a Toronto businessman in Harford County, said Dr. Arlene Stephenson, the state's deputy health secretary.
She said the Millersville woman and Baltimore resident are the only two suspected cases out of the 22 Maryland patients so far investigated for infection with the SARS virus. And neither of the suspected cases is considered a "probable" case because X-rays revealed no pneumonia or respiratory distress, key indicators of a SARS infection.
Virginia has had six possible SARS cases, three of which are considered "probable" cases.
Dr. Stephenson said there was no cause for alarm at this point and no need for anyone to start wearing masks.
"The best precaution you can take now is hand-washing," she said. "The best way to avoid [SARS] is to wash your hands thoroughly and frequently."
She said Maryland health officials were now working with the airports and other ports of entry to spread awareness about the virus among those just entering the state.
Chris Baker and Vaishali Honawar contributed to this report

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