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Suspected US SARS Case Spread at Workplace - 2003-04-12

U.S. health officials are reporting what appears to be the first domestic case of the respiratory disease known as SARS being spread at the workplace.

The Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control (CDC) is paying close attention to a 47-year-old woman from Gainesville, Florida, who is believed to have contracted Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, or SARS. She works with a 60-year-old woman who recently visited Asia, and was hospitalized last week with a suspicious respiratory infection.

The CDC says, if both cases are confirmed as SARS, it would constitute the first instance in the United States in which the disease appears to have been spread in the workplace.

Officials describe the development as highly troubling. Until now only family members and health workers who have had close contact with SARS patients have, themselves, become infected with the disease. The CDC says the Gainesville cases could be an indication that current efforts to contain the mysterious illness in the United States are inadequate.

More than 150 suspected SARS cases have been reported in the United States since the disease first appeared in parts of Asia earlier this year. Researchers say there is evidence that SARS is caused by what appears to be a new virus. But no definitive cause has been identified, and health officials say it could take a year or longer to develop a SARS vaccine.

In the meantime, officials say anyone experiencing flu-like symptoms and respiratory distress consistent with SARS should seek immediate medical attention.