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LIVE FROM THE HEADLINES

Interview With Jonathan George

Aired July 11, 2003 - 19:32   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: From concerns about one disease to another, the Air Force right now is trying to determine whether 11 people at Dyess Air Force Base in Abilene, Texas, have been exposed to SARS. Preliminary tests for eight of the patients have come back negative, but definitive tests are not expected to come back another two or three weeks.
Joining us to discuss the situation is Colonel Jonathan George, 7th Bomb Wing commander, at Dyess Air Force Base.

Appreciate you joining us, colonel.

What can you tell us? I mean, earlier there was a report it was eight or nine suspected cases, now it's 11. Who are the two new people? I mean, not asking for any names, but what is their status?

COL. JONATHAN GEORGE, U.S. AIR FORCE: Well, Mr. Cooper, let me kind of run down it real quickly. Earlier in the week, as you know, the medical group commander informed me that we had two individuals that had recently traveled to Toronto in support of one of our air shows report to our hospital with what were -- seemed to be flulike symptoms, aches and pains, coughing, fever.

Since they had gone through Toronto, our medical staff immediately put two and two together and took excessive precautions with the idea being that there might be an outside chance SARS connection.

So we immediately placed those individuals on quarters. Now, since then, we have very aggressively got in contact with everybody who might have had some kind of connection with the individuals. We've had a total now of about 11 individuals who have complained of these flulike symptoms.

As you just reported, sir, the first eight preliminary tests have come back, are showing negative for viral infection. They're showing in a couple cases bacterial infection, but none are showing any kind of SARS-related illness.

We have a total of 14, though, that we're keeping a close eye on. Three of those were travelers that had gone through Toronto, three more active duty were work members back here at Dyess that worked in the same shops as the three travelers...

COOPER: So what happens now? What...

GEORGE: ... four dependents...

COOPER: What happens now?

GEORGE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...

COOPER: You've done the preliminary tests, negative in many of the cases. What's the next step?

GEORGE: We're -- we have all these individuals, in most cases, in what we refer to as quarter status. In other words, they're released from their work centers and are sent home to recover. I'm in contact with all of them by telephone, and all are in great spirits. None of them have anything more serious than these flulike symptoms.

We do anticipate that over the weekend that we are likely to get a few more people that report having these symptoms. This is not unusual for our hospital. Typically, before SARS came along, we would receive 20 to 30 respiratory ailment patients on a weekly basis.

In this case, though, we cherish the service of our troops, our service members, and we're not going to take any precautions with them.

COOPER: (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...

GEORGE: The U.S. military goes to great pains to take care of our folks in combat, in peacetime, and certainly in health. And so we're keeping a close eye on them. But they're all at home...

COOPER: OK...

GEORGE: ... resting comfortably. As a matter of fact, as a matter of fact, Mr. Cooper, in a telephone conversation I had with two of them, they asked me if they could come back to work, that they were feeling fine. And a third one I just talked to a little bit ago asked if he could go water skiing this weekend.

So we're expecting that things are going to actually turn out to be a nonevent.

COOPER: All right, well, I'm glad, I'm glad that at least one of them is feeling well enough to water ski. So Colonel Jonathan George, appreciate you joining us. Our best to those who we're all concerned about. Thank you very much.

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