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June 13, 2003

UNC's Official Fright Song

I'm a Tarheel born,
I'm a Tarheel bred,
Now I've got SARS
By a Tarheel spread!

The SARS outbreak on the UNC campus grows more worrisome. Instead of one case with an unknown and mysterious transmission vector, there are now three, as two co-workers of the initial case are now showing symptoms of the disease.

Neither has been categorized as a suspected SARS patient with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, since they are not believed to have had the kind of exposure necessary to contract the disease. Health officials are awaiting laboratory test results, which they expect by Monday, to determine whether the men can be diagnosed with SARS.

This is exactly the same sequence of events taken with regards to the UNC campuses zero case. SARS was not initially considered as a diagnosis in his case, since although he had been to Toronto, he had not come into direct contact with anyone showing symptoms of the disease, nor had he visited a location where a SARS case had been reported previously.

The issue of when and where exposure occurs is important. In their investigations of more than 8,445 cases worldwide, scientists have surmised that the virus only spreads when the carrier is in the throes of illness, suffering a fever of 100.4 degrees or higher, a cough or other respiratory trouble, and body aches.

Based on those criteria, public health officials remain skeptical that the Orange County man was contagious during his week back at work. The man told health investigators that once he became sick on that Saturday, he stayed home and left his house the next week only to visit his doctor, said Dr. Jeffrey Engel, state epidemiologist.

In other words, "We know next to nothing about the disease, not that this prevents us from assuming exactly the opposite when it comes to how the germ spreads."

First public health officials were skeptical that the patient had SARS, now they are skeptical that he spread the virus, despite the fact that how he came to be infected with the disease in the first place is a complete mystery, and despite the fact that two of his co-workers are showing initial signs of the disease. Chapel Hill has always been thought of as just a hop, skip and a jump from outright Communism by the rest of the state; now its public health authorities have adopted China's initial attitude towards SARS wholesale.

If SARS is spreading in Chapel Hill, it won't be confined to the Giles Horney Building. Public transportation in Chapel Hill is free, and used by large numbers of UNC workers who ride in to work on buses from satellite parking lots on the edge of town. One SARS sneeze or post nasal drip on any of five different bus routes that run near the building, and the virus will be spread all over town. If the two cases under observation turn out to be SARS, then it will be proof positive that a person who exhibits no sign of the disease can still spread it.

So it's wash hands, Car'lina-lina
Stay home, Car'lina-lina
Wear masks, Car'lina-lina
Go to hell......... cough, < choke>........gasp.

The UNC SARS update page can be seen here.

Update: Sighs of relief all round. Both SARS tests came out negative, though one UNC worker has died.

Posted by Bigwig at June 13, 2003 01:20 PM | TrackBack
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