MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- Dr. Harry Hull, the Minnesota state epidemiologist, was frightened when he first heard about severe acute respiratory syndrome, but in the enduring weeks he has been somewhat reassured.
If the disease known as SARS were spread as easily as the flu, Hull said, it would be far more widespread than it is now with roughly 150 suspected cases in the United States -- including six in Minnesota -- and more than 2,600 worldwide.
"If my worst fears were going to come true, they already would have come true," said Hull, the leading disease detective at the Minnesota Department of Health.
Hull said there is still much to be learned about SARS, which is believed to be caused by a new type of cold virus, but the clues so far point to a disease that is, for the most part, harder to catch than he first thought.
"When I first heard about this outbreak, I was very frightened," Hull said. He and others feared it could turn into a "flu pandemic" that would spread like wildfire, but the cases simply didn't fit the pattern.
"Almost all of the cases are health care workers with direct contact with SARS cases, or household contacts," which suggests the need for face-to-face contact," he said.
"One great anxiety here is, 'Am I going to get it on an airplane?"' Hull said. "That's an open question. But the fact that it's open to question is reassuring. If it were highly infectious, we would be seeing patients who clearly got it on an airplane."
Brainerd Dispatch ©2013. All Rights Reserved.