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Bedford illness not SARS related

What started as a scare to the Bedford community last night, turns out to be just a bacterial illness, as a Breezewood woman who was admitted to UPMC Bedford Memorial Hospital last night, was not a SARS case as was previously thought.
“Preliminary cultures show that the patient being treated is not a SARS case,” said Scot Hartnett, director of marketing and public relations at UPMC Bedford Memorial. “The virus is bacterial in nature, not viral. We did contact the Center for Disease Control when the patient first came in.”
Last night, UPMC Hospital president Roger Winn announced that the patient was being treated in isolation.
“We have a woman who came in with an infectious condition,” said Winn. “It could be as soon as 24 hours or as long as a week before medical staff could determine the woman’s illness.”
It turned out that less than 24 hours later, UPMC Bedford Memorial is conducting business as usual.
“We would rather err on the side of caution,” said Hartnett. “We were extremely pleased with the way that our hospital staff reacted. We took all necessary precautions for the safety of our patients, visitors, staff and the community. All the areas that the patient had been treated at last night were decontaminated as a precaution.”
SARS is a respiratory infection that is sweeping Asia and was on the mind of a hospital visitor who left as the staff apparently became aware of the situation.
“Hospital officials led me out a side door and told me I could leave but not come back,” said John Shaffer of Everett who had just visited his newborn baby along with his wife and parents. “I was leaving around 6:30 p.m. to prepare dinner and I heard them say something about a triage. I thought it was a drill.”
There have been more than 200 SARS cases in the United States, but no deaths have been related to the illness. Canada has reported 14 deaths and 250 cases.
Originally Bedford called for a helicopter transport to UPMC Presbyterian Hospital in Pittsburgh where there is an infectious disease department, but it didn’t happen because of the possible infection.
“UPMC Bedford Memorial never closed its doors to the public,” said Hartnett. “Today all departments are at full strength and visitors are being accepted during visiting hours.”
The condition of the 50-year old Breezewood woman was not released.
Editor’s note: Bedford Gazette staff writer Elizabeth Coyle contributed to this story.