RALEIGH, N.C. – A co-worker of a SARS (search) patient died Friday of heart failure and pneumonia, state officials said, but initial tests indicate he did not have the respiratory disease.
The 45-year-old man and a second man who developed pneumonia worked in the same building as the SARS patient. In preliminary tests, both showed no signs of severe acute respiratory syndrome.
Additional tests ruled out SARS in the case of the second pneumonia victim, state health director Leah Devlin said in a statement late Friday. Results for the man who died were pending.
The North Carolina SARS patient apparently contracted the flu-like illness after encountering an infected person during a visit to a Toronto geriatric rehabilitation center. He is the eighth confirmed case of SARS in the United States.
The dead man and the SARS patient, neither of whom has been identified, had overlapping work hours on three successive days last month in a building at the University of North Carolina (search) at Chapel Hill, about 20 miles west of Raleigh.
The SARS patient showed no symptoms at the time, and Devlin said there are no reported cases worldwide in which a co-worker outside a medical setting passed the disease to a colleague.
"The disease investigation so far has not shown close personal contact between the two people," said Carol Schriber, spokeswoman for the state Department of Health and Human Services.
The man who died had a chronic cough for weeks and his condition suddenly deteriorated Monday, The News & Observer reported Friday. State epidemiologist Dr. Jeffrey Engel would say only that the man's medical history was still under investigation.
Since SARS emerged in southern China in November, the contagious lung disease has killed nearly 800 worldwide. Toronto has been the epicenter of the biggest SARS outbreak outside Asia.
Symptoms include fever, ache, coughing and shortness of breath.
The North Carolina SARS patient could be released from isolation at home on Saturday -- 10 days after his last symptom disappeared, state health officials said.
The second pneumonia patient was being monitored at home after treatment at a hospital.