Gerberding, being very cautious with her words, said the case involves a person who traveled to Asia and developed an illness "consistent with SARS." In the very early phases of that illness, she noted, "the individual did go to work, and during the active monitoring of contacts that the Florida health department is conducting, an[other] individual in the workplace who has respiratory illness was identified."
That worker is now on the list of suspected SARS patients but it's far too early to indicate whether any of these individuals actually has SARS, said Gerberding..
"There's certainly no indication of spread beyond that point," she said, "and the [Forida] health department is aggressively taking the appropriate steps to make sure that they have communicated with all of the exposed people or potentially exposed people, and are doing the right things to contain any additional spread, should this indeed turn out to be SARS."
During the briefing, which CDC regularly holds to update media and health professionals about the SARS situation, Gerberding announced that as of yesterday, the World Health Organization (WHO) was reporting 2,627 cases of SARS worldwide, and the CDC has reports of 166 cases in the United States from 30 states, that are under investigation.
"Domestically, we have 60 cases that have been hospitalized, ever," she said. "We have four individuals who are currently hospitalized. We have a total of 33 out of the 166 people who have ever had pneumonia, and we've had one person who's required ventilation, and to date, no deaths associated with SARS in the United States."
The CDC has received over 13,000 inquiries about SARS from around the country on its hotline, she noted.
She said CDC and other medical experts from around the world are "increasingly confident" they are dealing with a new coronavirus, however, "We cannot yet say that this is the definitive cause of SARS," Gerberding added.
Researchers speculate a coronovirus, which in humans is the cause of the common cold, might have come from animals and mutated so that it infects humans.