The Fatal Flu



Single Cryptosporidium


A Chinese woman and her husband living in Hong Kong went to visit to her family in the Guangdong Province, China.  They stayed at a hotel for one night, then returned to Hong Kong where they live with their two sons, daughter-in-law, and 5-month-old grandson. The woman soon came down with flu-like symptoms including sore throat, cough, and swollen glands. Her family physician diagnosed her as having pneumonia, put her on antibiotics and sent her home. Three days later, her symptoms worsened and she died.

The woman's son came down with fever two days later. He developed a cough, chest pains and indigestion. He was diagnosed with community-acquired pneumonia and admitted into the hospital, where he was given intravenous, broad-spectrum antibiotics. Six days later, he died of multiple organ dysfunction.

Within days, all adult members of their household, as well as immediate family members not in the household, came down with flu-like symptoms. In addition, the 37-year-old physician who had treated the son developed a fever, cough, and severe headache. Another patient, who had been in the waiting room with the woman and her husband, came down with a fever and malaise. The list goes on.

What started as a local outbreak of pneumonia quickly spread throughout Southeast Asia. First, the Chinese Ministry of Health reported 305 cases of acute respiratory syndrome. Then a traveler to Hanoi spread the disease to health care workers in Vietnam. A month later, the disease appeared in Hong Kong, where hundreds became sick. This disease seems to spread casually through hotel lobbies, airplanes and hospital waiting rooms. Of those infected, about 10% die, especially the elderly. There seems to be no end in site to the spread of this unidentified, fatal pathogen.

NOTE: To help you understand this case study, we have developed a worksheet of questions that you will need to answer as you go through it. If you have not yet done so, download and print a copy of the worksheet from the References panel at the right.


> Worksheet



Case Studies in Microscopy - Copyright 2003 Cornell University