Originally created 04/30/03

Patient awaits SARS verdict



Medical College of Georgia Hospital on Tuesday discharged a patient who had been in isolation because the patient had some of the symptoms of a deadly Asian flulike virus.

The patient will remain in quarantine in the community, however, until test results come back, said hospital epidemiologist Keith Woeltje.

State officials said the patient had just returned from an extended visit to China, where severe acute respiratory syndrome first appeared in November. The patient showed up Sunday night in the emergency department with a fever and was immediately isolated. The unidentified patient did not have the cough and respiratory problems that characterize the disease, Dr. Woeltje said.

"We're acting as if the patient is contagious just in case, but the patient is not sick enough to be in the hospital," he said.

The patient, who does not live in the area, has arranged to be put in voluntary isolation in the area, Dr. Woeltje said.

Since it surfaced in November, SARS is believed to have killed at least 350 people and sickened more than 5,000, mostly in Asia and in Toronto. There is no known treatment for the virus, which appears to be a new strain of the coronavirus that normally causes colds in humans. The death rate has been about 6 percent of the people infected.

The patient's name, gender and hometown was withheld by a hospital spokeswoman, citing federal rules against identifying patients. The case is the fourth suspected SARS case for Georgia, state officials said, though none has been classified a probable case of the disease.

The patient's test samples were forwarded to the Georgia Division of Public Health, which will forward them to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, said Charles Renau, the bioterrorism coordinator for the East Central Health District.

There was no word on when the results would come back, Dr. Woeltje said.

Reach Tom Corwin at (706) 823-3213 or tomc@augustachronicle.com.