Thursday, March 20, 2003 - Health Officials on the island say they are on
high alert following an advisory issued by the Pan American Health Organization
(PAHO), asking the countries of the Americas to be on guard in light of the
emergence of cases of an unusual form of pneumonia, caused by a yet-unidentified
virus or bacteria resistant to existing drugs.
Reports of over 150 cases of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), an
atypical pneumonia of unknown origin, have been received by the World Health
Organization (WHO) since February 26, 2003. Nine of the cases, in nine
countries, have been fatal. . Six probable cases have been reported in Canada,
all members of a family that had travelled to Hong Kong in February.
PAHO's Deputy Director Dr. David Bennett, said the Organization has asked its
member countries in the Americas, to be on the lookout for any cases of this
rare pneumonia. The disease is spread from person to person through close
contact. There is no evidence to date that the disease spreads though casual
contact. To date, almost all reported cases have occurred in health workers
involved in the direct care of reported cases or in close contacts, such as
The World Health Organization (WHO) is coordinating the international
investigation of the outbreak and working closely with health authorities in the
affected countries to provide epidemiological, clinical and logistical support
as required. The mode of transmission and the causative agent have yet to be
Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Mc Donald Chase, said an alert on
the situation has also been received from the regional health body the Caribbean
Epidemiology Centre (CAREC).