Mystery disease reported on Kaua`i

There is at least one reported Hawai`i case of a mysterious, potentially fatal pneumonia-like disease that has health officials nationwide scrambling to track its source and spread. In a Wednesday report to the World Health Organization, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control said that so far, 13 cases in 10 states are being researched, with 306 cases and 10 deaths attributed to what it has classified as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome.

The outbreak has been tracked back to a Chinese professor who traveled from China’s Guangdong province to Hong Kong on Feb. 21. Many of the earliest cases were found in travelers who had stayed in the same hotel — The Metropole Hotel — at the same time, in rooms on the same floor.

According to a report in the Star-Bulletin, a Kaua`i woman who had traveled to Hong Kong was admitted to Wilcox Memorial Hospital on Feb. 26. A health-care worker who had contact with her was admitted about a week later.

Although both recovered and were discharged before the CDC issued its alert, state epidemiologist Paul Effler told the newspaper that the symptoms fit the profile and therefore the state Department of Health reported it and has launched an investigation.

Travelers arriving in Hawai`i from Hong Kong are receiving a warning about the outbreak.

In addition to Hawai`i, cases have been reported in Maine, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico, Tennessee, Virginia, Wisconsin, North Carolina, and California.

At last report, starting with the Chinese professor, health officials say the outbreak is in its third generation — passed along twice, from person to person. Not including the Hawai`i case (and its apparent transmission from the patient to the health-care worker), the CDC has reported contagious cases in Hong Kong, mainland China, Vietnam, Singapore, and Canada.

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