U.S. and international health officials now think the mystery disease that originated in Asia and is spreading rapidly throughout the U.S. is a tough new version of the common cold. It was earlier reported to be a form of the virus that causes measles and mumps, but now the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says tests reveal traces of a form of microbe known as a coronavirus in the tissue of people infected with “severe acute respiratory syndrome,” or SARS. CDC director Dr. Julie Gerberding says, “If (coronavirus) is not the entire cause of SARS, it at least contributes to it.”

The next goal is to develop a diagnostic test to identify people who have SARS, instead of ordinary flu, which could lead to a more effective treatment for the new disease.

The March 26 New York Times reports that a team of experts sent to China by the World Health Organization has not been allowed to visit the area where SARS is thought to have originated. The Chinese are controlling information about the seriousness of the outbreak there and say the situation is “under control.” This is reminiscent of the early days of AIDS, when African countries wouldn’t let foreign experts in to investigate, fearing bad publicity.

These days, it’s important to find out what doctors don’t tell you.

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