Canada quarantines 500 suspected SARS cases

Canadian health officials are investigating whether or not 33 people displaying SARS symptoms have the flu-like illness, and have ordered at least 500 people to go into quarantine

Passengers arriving in Toronto
are required to have their
temperatures taken upon arrival

Canada is the only country outside Asia to report any deaths from Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).
Toronto, where all of the 24 deaths in Canada and most of the outbreak has spread, has been hardest hit.

The flu-like virus was initially traced back to an elderly woman who returned from Hong Kong in late February.
Provincial health officials refused to label the 33 people as SARS cases, as no direct link could be made to a past SARS case.

A formal definition of a probable SARS case requires a link to a known SARS case.

“For practical purposes, we are treating them as though they are” SARS cases, Ontario’s Commissioner of Health Doctor Colin D’Cunha told reporters.

Despite the inability to trace the suspected cases with a known case of SARS, officials believe a connection exists but said that there was no danger to the general public of an uncontrolled outbreak.
Officials said that 25 of the 33 are in hospital and being treated in isolation. Seven of the 33 under investigation are health care workers.
“We are trying to track down every loose end,” D’Cunha said, noting that they still had not gotten to the bottom of what triggered the apparent new wave of SARS cases.
Officials are now investigating whether two people, a 96-year-old and an 80-year-old, had died of SARS. They may have unknowingly exposed the virus to hundreds – including health care workers and patients at two area hospitals as well as their family members.
They believe the deceased 96-year-old man at one of the hospitals may have actually developed SARS after pelvic surgery, rather than a simple pneumonia as first thought.
If confirmed, it is believed that he could have exposed others in his hospital ward, including a woman who shared a room with him. She was later transferred another hospital in the area for recovery.

Toronto officials launched an
aggressive marketing campaign
to lure tourists back to the city

She in turn, may be the source of the four others suspected of having SARS that were reported on Friday.

Bad week for Canada

A World Health Organisation (WHO) spokesperson in Geneva said it would have to assess the situation more closely before deciding whether to place Toronto back on a list of SARS-affected areas, or placing a travel advisory.

It was the latest bad news in a dismal week for Canada, which discovered mad cow disease in the cattle heartland of Alberta. It has prompted countries from around the world to ban import of Canadian beef products.

Toronto was removed from the WHO’s SARS list earlier in May when it passed the incubation period of 20 days without recording any new cases of the virus.

A WHO travel advisory for Toronto was also removed after intense lobbying by Canadian officials to the UN organisation.

The SARS outbreak that first appeared in March caused serious damage to Toronto’s vital tourism and convention industry as tourists cancelled plans to visit the city.

Provincial and city officials subsequently launched an aggressive marketing campaign to lure tourists and businesses back to the city, which is known for fine dining and theatre.

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