Physicians, hospitals, laboratories, emergency medical services units, local health departments and county public health nursing services throughout Colorado have been alerted to watch for persons, suffering from severe flu-like symptoms, who recently traveled in Southeast Asia.
Douglas H. Benevento, the executive director of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, said that the warning was issued Sunday through the department's Health Alert Network. The network transmits notifications to 800 physicians, health care organizations and health departments. Several of the local health departments then transmit the alerts to networks in their counties, bringing the notification total in Colorado to more than 5,000.
Benevento said that the notification on Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome or atypical pneumonia was issued based on a travel alert issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The federal alert was issued after a few cases of the disease were reported in Canada involving a traveler who recently returned from Southeast Asia and members of that individual's family.
The world-wide cases have included nine deaths to date. However, no cases have been identified in Colorado at this time.
"We wanted the health care community in Colorado to be alerted to and to be on the lookout for any cases of this kind in Colorado so that any individual who becomes sick with this disease can be identified and treated as quickly as possible," Benevento said.
Dr. Ned Calonge, the state's chief medical officer who is based at the Department of Public Health and Environment, said the symptoms of the disease, which progress rapidly and can be fatal, include fever, muscle aches, coughing and shortness of breath.
Calonge said that if such symptoms are coupled with a history of recent travel in Southeast Asia, including to the countries of Vietnam, Indonesia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand and to Hong Kong and to the Province of Guangdong in Southern China, the individual should contact his or her health care provider immediately and provide the information about the symptoms and the travel history.
In turn, Colorado physicians have been asked to notify the Department of Public Health and Environment's Disease Control and Environmental Epidemiologist Division if any cases fitting these descriptions come to their attention.
Calonge said there are particular concerns about the spread of the disease because of travelers moving from one area of the world to another with frequency and ease.