Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS)
One of the island residents returned to the island after being overseas, volunteering in several rural hospitals. During this time, the person was unknowingly carrying Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). The man spoke at several island events during a seven day period and at neighboring humanitarian events throughout Columbia County. He even spoke at a July 4th event on the island, where just under a thousand visitors made contact with him during the two-day event to raise money for another humanitarian trip. The next day, he suddenly became ill with shortness of breath, flu-like symptoms, gastrointestinal discomfort, muscle ache, and a cough. Over a two day period, several more people on the island began complaining of similar symptoms, to include lethargy and a sore throat. There was a small red tide outbreak which causes the same symptoms in many patients. Paramedics from Little Columbia Southern Island Fire Department responded to the emergency, and the patient was transported via boat to the closest hospital. As a result of the red tide bloom, many patients believe the symptoms were just that. The local hospital misdiagnosed SARS as the side effects of the red tide bloom and released the patient to return to the island. As a result, the disease has spread rapidly throughout the tight-knit community, with a total of 12 deaths.