LITTLE ROCK – A patient with a "probable case" of SARS (search) was in isolation Saturday at a hospital in Arkansas, the first likely case of the disease in Arkansas.
The patient was a traveler on business, Arkansas Health Department (search) spokesman Bob Alvey said. Due to privacy rules, officials could not reveal the city, or even the region, where the patient was being treated.
Health Department deputy director Dr. Joe Bates said Saturday the patient went to a hospital Thursday night and that the department was notified Friday. Staff members were working over the weekend to locate anyone with whom the patient had close contact.
"That's all being worked on as we speak," Bates said.
Alvey said the patient remained in stable condition Saturday evening, and that his condition was not expected to change through the weekend.
Bates said the man was well enough to help investigators backtrack his activities in Arkansas.
Severe acute respiratory syndrome is spread through close contact, such as shaking hands or through contact health workers would have with a patient, Bates said.
"It is not spread through so-called casual contact ... walking through a Wal-Mart is not what worries us," Bates said.
Samples from the patient were sent to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (search) in Atlanta, and Bates said results of a rapid test for the SARS virus would be back in a few days. If the test is negative, results of more elaborate testing will add a week to 10 days, he said.
Bates said the patient's chest X-ray indicated pneumonia.
"The cause for it is not known. He's been in places where SARS is known to exist. That's the reason we're making that diagnosis," Bates said. "He was from Canada."
In the Toronto area, 24 people have died from the coronavirus, and officials are looking at two more deaths that may have been caused by SARS. The United States has issued another travel alert for the Canadian city, prompted by a fresh cluster of possible SARS cases in Toronto.
The World Health Organization (search) said there is one new SARS case in Toronto, and people exposed to the patient are being traced. The WHO has not returned Toronto to the list of places people should avoid.
Bates said he was satisfied with the response at the Arkansas hospital, which he said wasted no time in placing the patient in isolation. He said the hospital was equipped to handle the patient.
Bates said the man had been in Arkansas "less than a day" before seeking medical attention and had limited contact with residents.
SARS has spread to more than 8,000 people around the globe, and killed nearly 700, the vast majority of them in Asia. The CDC lists 40 states and Puerto Rico as having had suspect or probable cases of the disease. Of the 355 cases examined in those states, the CDC listed 65 as probable, not including the new Arkansas case.
A case is termed "probable" when an X-ray reveals pneumonia or respiratory distress syndrome, or when there is a death from an unexplained respiratory-related illness. A case is termed "suspect" if a patient has fever of at least 100.4 degrees, cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing and has had contact with a SARS patient or has been in a place where SARS has been transmitted.