There are five cases of SARS in Illinois, but Iowa has still hasn’t seen any patients diagnosed with Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, an illness blamed on a virus that’s infected at least 2200 people around the world and killed about 60. Iowa State University public health professor Radford Davis has heard recent reports that the corona virus may be to blame. Other coronaviruses cause cold symptoms in people, and he speculates this could be a strain that mutated and became more dangerous to people. All the current cases in the US are tied to people who’ve traveled to that area around China, and though antibiotics can’t cure a virus there are anti-viral treatments some doctors may prescribe — though Davis says there’s no guarantee they’ll be very effective. Another question about the corona virus, which has strains that sicken cattle, pigs, dogs, cats, and rats in addition to people, is whether the same strain of virus could “jump the species barrier” from one life form to a different one. Davis says most influenza strains originate in China and the Asian region, and where rural people there live very closely with their animals, some diseases can jump from fowl to pigs to people. Davis says we don’t need to feel “at risk” living in Iowa, as the only case of SARS likely to turn up will be in travelers from the Asian regions where the virus has been detected.
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