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The Daily Cardinal Est. 1892
Wednesday, April 24, 2024

As SARS instances rise, scientists work to identify and treat cases

Although scientists around the world are working feverishly to positively identify and develop treatments for Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, worldwide cases continue to rise, with reports of relapsed patients and mutated strains. 




Currently, scientists at the Centers for Disease Control and their partner laboratories suspect SARS is caused by a coronavirus. A coronavirus resembles a ball with a halo or ring around it when viewed microscopically. 




Though SARS is among the heavy-hitters of infectious disease, scientists say it is important to consider its relative severity.  




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\Yes, [SARS] is scary, but it's really not as infectious [as other outbreaks]. You need direct contact-an infected person has to sneeze or cough on you or there needs to be a direct exchange of fluid to become infected,"" said assistant Professor of medical microbiology and immunology Stacey Schultz-Cherry. 




In spite of this, almost 40 states in the United States have reported suspected or probable SARS infections to the CDC. In Wisconsin, there have been only two suspected cases and one probable. 




The first Wisconsin suspected case, a 26-year-old man from Pewaukee, Wis., who had recently returned from travel in Singapore and China, has now been ruled out as a likely SARS case. 




The next two cases involve a school-aged female from northern Wisconsin and a southern Wisconsin male, both of whom visited Toronto. He developed symptoms and pneumonia soon after returning. The CDC classifies the latter case as ""probable."" 




??According to Jim Kazmierczak, epidemiologist at the Wisconsin Department of Health, the way the CDC classified the case is inaccurate in this instance. ""I do not think anyone believes the probable case is SARS. It's much more likely viral pneumonia."" 




Kazmierczak said it is difficult to classify cases as SARS for certain because although there is a SARS test, it is unreliable. 




""The test consists of a nasal swab of the individual....It detects the RNA or DNA of the virus, but you can expect false-negatives. If it's positive, it is positive, but if it's negative we have to wait three weeks and examine another sample from that person for antibodies,"" said Kazmierczak. He says the antibody test is more reliable, but takes weeks of waiting. 




Schultz-Cherry reminds UW students, especially those in dorms, ""On a scale of 0-10 [ten being worst threat] SARS is around a 6 or 7. College students should really be more worried about meningitis.""

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