Canada may see more SARS deaths

Canadian medical officials in Toronto warned on Monday that the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) virus is still spreading at some hospitals, where doctors were monitoring at least 52 suspected cases.

More than 1400 Canadians are
in quarantine

Dr Allison McGeer, chief of infection control at Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto, said there was “no doubt that more people are going to die in this outbreak”.
More than 1,400 people were in quarantine on Monday, but doctors said there was no cause for alarm in the city.

“We have no evidence that SARS has spread to the general community,” said Dr Barbara Yaffe, associate medical officer of health for Toronto.

However, a recent cluster of 34 probable and suspect cases and three more deaths prompted the World Health Organization on Monday to put Toronto back on its list of SARS-affected areas, just 12 days after it was taken off. 

There have been 290 probable SARS cases in Ontario since the virus hit the province in mid-March. The Toronto area, with 27 deaths, is the only place outside Asia where the virus has claimed lives. 

New cases
Doctors said they were still trying to figure out the source of the new cluster of cases, first reported last Friday.
The latest outbreak began after a 96-year-old man in hospital for surgery developed what was thought to be pneumonia. His illness has now been identified as SARS, but officials do not know exactly how he contracted the virus. 

“We believe what happened, most likely, was somebody who appeared to have pneumonia slipped through, but [he] had SARS. We knew this was going to be very difficult to distinguish,” McGeer said.
“If we treat everybody who has pneumonia as if they have SARS, we will paralyze the health-care system,” she added.
Dr Donald Low, Mount Sinai’s chief of microbiology, said doctors were monitoring medical staff as well at North York General where the 96-year-old fell ill. A team from the US Centers for Disease Control is also expected soon to help combat the spread of SARS in hospitals. 
Economic considerations

UN stopped short of
travel ban to Toronto

The WHO’s designation of Toronto as an area where SARS was spreading drew concern from businesses in the city. However, the UN agency stopped short of re-issuing a recommendation that travelers stay away.

Rod Seiling, president of the Greater Toronto Hotel Association, which expects to record a drop of at least 20% in hotel occupancy levels in May said “we wanted to focus on the recovery… now it is going to take some time.”
A WHO travel advisory against Toronto in April sent the city’s economy into a steep slide as well. Thousands of hotel workers lost their jobs as vacancy rates soared to 70% because of cancelled events and conventions.