ATLANTA—The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced Monday that in the first two months of 2007, 47-year-old Wayne Ray Thomas of Jupiter, FL has surpassed heart disease as America's No.1 killer.

"We're in the midst of a major national health crisis," CDCP Director Dr. Julie Gerberding said. "Every 22 minutes, Wayne Ray Thomas takes another life. If trends continue, by 2027 this silent killer could affect one in every 15 Americans."

According to health and law enforcement officials, there are several warning signs of the onset of Wayne Ray Thomas, including intense anxiety, shortness of breath, sweating, and a sudden loss of power to the victim's house.

Physical symptoms of a full-scale attack include involuntary constriction of the airway and sharp, stabbing pains in the left arm, right arm, throat, and back. In the advanced stages, afflicted persons suffer external bleeding, loss of motor function, organ failure, and intracranial hemorrhaging.

So far, those stricken by Wayne Ray Thomas have exhibited a 100 percent mortality rate.

"Progression can vary widely—most die in a matter of minutes, but sometimes, death can be drawn out over several agonizing days," Gerberding said. "The sole universal factor, other than the detachment of the pinky finger, is that the victim undergoes a great deal of pain."

Records indicate that the killer was first linked to a cluster of mysterious small mammal deaths in the late 1980s. By 1997, the leap to humans had apparently been made, when a number of deaths were reported in Miami's gay community.

Frequent running is an excellent way to prevent an attack.

Investigators have thus far failed to find a strong genetic link among the deaths, although there have been incidents of entire families being wiped out in a very short period of time. The CDCP said that evidence remains sketchy and incomplete, prompting speculation that there may be undocumented cases currently lying under railroad trestles and in shallow, unmarked graves.

Several high-risk groups have been identified, such as young children, the elderly, college-age females, male and female prostitutes in the Amarillo, TX area, and hitchhikers. Evidence has also linked the occurrence of Wayne Ray Thomas with preexisting conditions such as paralysis, blindness, and mental retardation.

But even those not within the identified categories should not assume they're immune, Gerberding said: "Wayne Ray Thomas does not discriminate. This dispassionate killer doesn't care about your ethnicity, where you live, or how much money you make. "

There are many things people can do to lessen the chance of falling victim to Wayne Ray Thomas, such as staying in good enough shape to sprint for several blocks while screaming. Eating a low-fat diet can help maintain a well-functioning endocrine system and the steady production of adrenaline, a hormone essential for both an effective fight-or-flight response and proper hand-eye coordination in the use of firearms.

"If you are experiencing any of the warning signs, immediately seek medical and police help," Gerberding said. "You have a chance of surviving Wayne Ray Thomas, but only if he's recognized early."

"And if you are certain you're at risk, for the love of God, do not, under any circumstances, go upstairs," Gerberding added.