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Toronto SARS Cases Double in 2 Days - 2003-05-30


Scientists from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control arrived in Toronto, Canada Friday to assist health officials there in dealing with a second outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome. Canada’s largest city has seen the number of SARS cases more than double in the last 2 days. Worldwide, the pneumonia-like ailment has killed more than 750 people and infected at least 8,300 people in 31 countries.

VOA-TV’S Chris Simkins has more on the SARS outbreak in Canada.

Health officials in Toronto are stepping up efforts to stop the spread of SARS. More than 30 cases of the flu-like virus were reported in the last day. The latest outbreak began after the disease was detected among some health care workers who were exposed to SARS patients at this hospital. Dr. Colin D’Cunha is with the Ontario Commission of Public Health.

DR. COLIN D’CUNHA, ONTARIO COMMISSION OF PUBLIC HEALTH
“We have found 8 new probable cases linked to our original set of cases.”

Authorities are still trying to determine how the latest cases spread from an isolation unit in the hospital to other health care workers. However, doctors believe the disease is limited to 5 hospitals. The first outbreak of SARS hit Toronto in March and April. Some researchers now say they fear this second outbreak could spread to the general public.

DR. DON LOW, MICROBIOLOGIST MOUNT SINAI HOSPITAL
“You are as safe as somebody who is in another city where there is no SARS? Here I’m wrong. Here we had a case occur and we don’t know what the link is.”

But officials such as Dr. Barbara Yaffe with Toronto’s Department of Health downplay the risk of SARS spreading to the general public.

DR. BARBARA YAFFE, TORONTO DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH
“There continues to be absolutely no evidence of transmission of SARS in the general community.”

Canadian health officials say the number of probable SARS cases in the Toronto area has increased so far, in part, because researchers have adopted a broader definition of the disease. Some fear the number of cases will climb to as high as 70. This week the World Health Organization put the city back on the list of SARS-affected areas.

The move also raises the possibility the World Health Organization will re-advise travelers to put off unnecessary visits to Toronto. The respiratory illness has killed 29 people in Canada so far and has sickened more than 300.

As Canadian doctors try to contain the virus to hospitals, they are monitoring more than 107 people who have minor SARS-like symptoms, as well as 7,000 others living under quarantine in Toronto.

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