probable and suspect cases

vida morkunas vidamorkunas at TELUS.NET
Mon Apr 28 15:11:46 UTC 2003

there's an article today about a foreign tourist who arrived in New York
City early this month with a guidebook in hand and Knicks tickets in his
pocket. But he did not use either because he also arrived with a suspected
case of SARS and spent virtually his entire vacation involuntarily detained
in a hospital.

the following excerpt may answer your question:

However, there was no way for doctors to know with certainty whether the man
had SARS or some other type of respiratory illness because there is no test
for SARS. All that doctors can rely on is the definition of a SARS case. The
C.D.C. in Atlanta has created two definitions. The one for a suspected SARS
case does not include pneumonia. But the C.D.C. defines a probable SARS case
as including pneumonia to comply with the World Health Organization's
definition. The federal agency developed the broader classification because
it does not want to miss any possible SARS case in this country.

vidamorkunas at

-----Original Message-----
From: American Dialect Society [mailto:ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU]On Behalf
Of Thomas M. Paikeday
Sent: April 27, 2003 8:34 PM
Subject: probable and suspect cases

I was wondering whether if I cough in public I am a suspect or probable case
of SARS.

Reports like the following are heard in the media all day: "As of 14 April
2003, Health Canada has received reports of approximately 287 cases of SARS
(103 probable and 184 suspect cases) in Canada. ... "

Everyone knows the meaning of the two words in isolation, but in this
specific context, how does the CDC or the doctors distinguish between the
two? Does one become a probable case first and then a suspect if more
symptoms are manifested or is it the other way around? Or are suspect and
probable cases free-standing entities? (I forgot to ask my doctor when I saw
him last. Anyone got any idea?)

This is probably a safe conjecture, namely, if you returned to the U.S. from
Toronto, you are a probable case, but if you cough while admitting it, you
are a suspect.

Just thinking aloud after some googling!


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