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Death Toll Rises From New Emerging Disease

The death toll continues to rise worldwide from Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, or SARS. At least 62 people in 15 countries have now died, and another 1,800 are sick with the flu-like virus.

As Robert Raffaele tells us, health officials across the globe are encouraging additional precautions.

Health workers in protective suits and masks continue to sift through evidence at the Amoy Gardens housing complex in Hong Kong. More than 200 residents have either been diagnosed with or are suspected of carrying Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome. Those residents were moved to isolation camps Tuesday.

China is now reporting 12 more deaths from the virus, including nine in the Guangdong province, where the outbreak is believed to have originated. Officials from the World Health Organization will visit the region Thursday. The WHO also reports the first sign of the virus in three more Chinese provinces.

In Canada, six people have now died from SARS in the nation’s largest city, Toronto. More than 150 others are believed to have the illness.

In the nation’s most populated province, Ontario, authorities have declared a health emergency and restricted access to all hospitals. Staff and visitors must wear masks and other protective gear.

Prime Minister Jean Chretien made his first public comments about the outbreak

“It’s a public health a problem, we’re doing the utmost, we should not panic either, it’s serious, but the Department of Health of Canada, the Department of Health from Ontario, where most of the problem is at this moment, they are working hand in hand, and we hope that the problem is confined, but we never know with health what will be.”

Tuesday, in the western U.S. state of California, a plane arriving in San Jose from Tokyo Tuesday was kept on the ground, after several passengers complained of SARS-related symptoms. Those passengers were later given a clean bill of health. There are 72 suspected cases of SARS in the U.S. Meanwhile, researchers for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say they are 90 percent certain that a new species of “coronavirus” is responsible for SARS.