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SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome)

post #1 of 23
Thread Starter 
Toronto is still fighting to get control of this illness. There have been forced quarentines and they are considering making violators of the quarentine wear tracking devices. Do you think thta should be enforced and violate individual civil liberties? Here is an article with an update.


Officials fear SARS outbreak at Easter
'Very important weekend'

Tom Blackwell
National Post

The coming long weekend will be crucial in the battle to contain Canada's SARS outbreak, as holiday gatherings create potential germ breeding grounds that could spread the disease further, experts warned yesterday.

Health officials are particularly worried that infections from a surprise cluster of cases among a Catholic prayer group in Toronto are about to peak.

"We're at a very important weekend," said Dr. James Young, Ontario's commissioner of public safety. "We have a whole lot of risk factors that are coming together at once and we have an [infection-control] message that isn't very popular for a lot of us. We're asking a lot of people."

Their biggest fear is that "sporadic" cases of SARS could begin showing up in the Toronto area, cases that cannot be traced back to a known source of the disease, said Dr. Andrew Simor, chief microbiologist at Sunnybrook and Women's College Health Sciences Centre.

He told The Canadian Press that it is still possible to get the outbreak under control in Toronto, but added: "I am less optimistic today than I was a week ago."

In what they admitted yesterday is an "unprecedented" request, public health officials have asked anyone in the Toronto area who feels any SARS symptom -- from severe headache to high fever -- to stay home in isolation until their condition is resolved.

The province also issued guidelines yesterday to Christian churches, urging them to avoid offering shared glasses of wine at communion and to discourage handshaking and kissing of religious icons.

The Ontario government also revealed it is seriously considering forcing some people ordered into quarantine to wear electronic tracking bracelets.

But the province made no promise of compensation for quarantined citizens, despite concern among public health experts that economic hardship could prompt potential SARS patients to go to work and infect others.

In other developments:

- Health Canada told the National Post it is looking at taking the temperature of passengers coming off flights from Asian hot spots of the ailment;

- Officials confirmed two nurses at a Markham hospital got the disease, despite strict infection-control measures in place at the facility; and

- The World Health Organization said there could be five times as many SARS cases in Beijing as the 37 the Chinese government has reported.

The number of probable or suspected SARS cases in Ontario rose by five yesterday to 249, bringing the national total to 303. B.C., Alberta, Saskatchewan, New Brunswick and P.E.I. also have cases. SARS has killed 13 people in Canada, most were elderly and all suffered from other ailments.

Almost 10,000 people have spent time in quarantine, with 1,500 still in isolation yesterday, said Dr. Colin D'Cunha, Ontario's commissioner of public health.

As Passover and Easter celebrations fill synagogues and churches and bring extended families together, health officials are worried about the potential for more people to become infected.

The next few days will also reveal the full repercussions of a mini-outbreak among members of Bukas-Loob sa Diyos (BLD), a mostly Filipino-Canadian Catholic prayer group.

Almost 30 of its members have come down with SARS, but all 500 members of the group were not ordered into quarantine until a few days ago, meaning some could have inadvertently infected other people. If so, their 10-day incubation period will be ending in the next three to four days.

Toronto public health officials fear a rash this weekend of what they call "popcorn"-- cases that pop up throughout the community with no immediately obvious link to the original sources of the disease, said a source.

Many members of the BLD group who were ordered into quarantine, several of them nannies, have complained about the loss of income, telling officials they will not be able to feed their children if they stay in isolation, the source said.

The Public Health Department is anxious for the province to compensate such people, but the government has yet to take action. Ernie Eves, the Premier, has said it could cost "billions" to reimburse everyone hurt financially by SARS.

Mr. Clement said the province is talking to the federal government over the compensation issue and observed that people can make claims under the workers' compensation system and the Employment Insurance program.

Dr. Young acknowledged the province is giving some consideration to putting electronic bracelets on people reluctant to stay in quarantine, as has been done in Singapore. "We're thinking about that and looking at that," he said. "There may be some legal issues involved."

Meanwhile, Health Canada says it is considering the possibility of taking the temperature of travellers arriving from other hot spots. Hong Kong and Singapore have instituted such measures, with Singapore using a high-tech thermal imaging device that automatically measures body temperature as passengers walk by.

"We don't want to rule it out, we don't want to completely shut the door, but we do want to make our own assessment of the efficacy of it," said Emmanuel Chabot, a Health Canada spokesman.

"We are aware of the situation abroad and we want to ensure the health and safety of Canadians. If that means changing our procedures, we will do that."

Currently, federal officials have quarantine officers inspect some arriving flights and distribute leaflets that outline the SARS symptoms and direct travellers to isolate themselves and seek medical help if they get sick.

Ontario government representatives met with federal counterparts this week and discussed the possibility of more stringent screening of people arriving from affected regions, Dr. Young said.

At least 10 of Ontario's cases, and several in other provinces, have been people entering the country from Asian hot spots.
post #2 of 23
This thing is getting out of hand. According to WHO, 96% of those contracting the disease recover. A few simple precautions are all that is needed - mainly, WASH YOUR HANDS.

The media is making this out to be a worldwide scourge, comparable to the Spanish influenza outbreak of 1918. Granted, people with compromised immune systems are at risk but the average, healthy person-on-the-street is fairly safe.

I see that profiteers are capitalizing on the hysteria: there was photograph from Vancouver, showing street vendors selling 99-cent masks for $10. Disgusting!
post #3 of 23
Public panic obviously isn't called for, and the media should be careful not to sensationalize SARS. Flu kills more people, and just think how cases of West Nile have been increasing from year to year. However, there have now been deaths among fairly young, otherwise healthy people. Public health officials are right to be cautious - remember when AIDS was thought to be limited to gay males in San Francisco, LA and NYC? The pathogen has been identified as a corona virus, which causes the common cold (which there is still no cure for). Also, a corona virus is responsible for FIP, which is 100% fatal. In short - SARS is worrying.
post #4 of 23
For me personally, I am more fearful of West Nile than SARS. Last year Oakville, Ontario (west of Toronto) had the largest reported cases of West Nile in all of North America! Most people won't get a reaciton, but others can become paralized or worse. West Nile is like playing a game of Russian roulette. It doesn't matter if your healthy and in the prime of yourlife, you may be the one that gets the bad reaction.

In order to control SARS, I think Ontario really does have to take precautions like the one above. There was a guy who was suppose to be quarantined, but he decided to go to work instead. The next day the whole office building of 200 people had stay at home.

I would rather have the whole virus contained, than running rampant across the population infecting new people all the time. Ady, you know how our health system's budget has been cut to the bare bones. Major surgeries have to be postponed because of this. Imagine having something like cancer and telling that patient they have to wait a little longer!!! Cancer patients in Ontario are already waiting to long to get the treatments and surgeries they need.

To put it simply, Ontario does not have the medical infrastructure to be dealing with West Nile and SARS at the same time. Our emergency departments are closed or restricted, surgeries are on hold or cancelled, our medical care at the moment has hit a crisis point. Therefore, I do believe we need to take strong action against SARS right now. It doesn't matter if you are healthy or you think the media is too hyped up on this. When hospitals, senior centres, clinics and the medical community are majorily restricted because of possible new infections, something serious has to be done to get our medical system running again.

Also, don't forget the economic effects of SARS. Tourism is being crushed and the economic problems we already have are being compounded. Toronto's Chinatown is a deserted and Chinese businesses are going bankrupt. This is not just a health issue anymore, it is affecting cultural, social, economic, and religious activities as well.
post #5 of 23
Thread Starter 
Kass - I fully agree that drastic actions have to take place. I actually believe everyone should be quarentined for 10 days and only leave home for emergancies - this is the only way, IMO, to stop the spread! I fully support the use of tracking blacelets and police guard if need be.

I also agree that West Nile is much scary - especially as I go up to cottage country often and often get bites!
post #6 of 23
Uh, oh. I've read so many articles on how exemplary Canada's health care system is. If the system there is in trouble, we may have a major problem. CNN International had a piece on Toronto's Chinatown today. The streets were empty, and the few people about were wearing surgical masks. Can you imagine how this has affected places like Hong Kong? I've already noticed that pedestrians here are giving Asians (most of whom are residents of Germany) a wide berth, although we've had fewer than 10 cases, and no fatalities - there's nothing like paranoia! However, I've been a teacher for over twenty years, and I can't count the number of times when one student with the sniffles has managed to infect the entire school within a period of two to three weeks. SARS may or may not be a major health threat, but I'm glad that the authorities aren't taking it too lightly.
post #7 of 23
Jcat, we did have a great systems compared to most countries. What happened was the fact that some politicians took the health care budget into their own hands.

When everything is running smoothly, no one complains. So the health care in Canada was running pretty well for a long time. Then, in the last decade or two, some politicians wanted to mess with the status quo and started dipping into the health care budget because they wanted votes and figured that tax cuts were the answer. Then other politians dipped into the budget and said, oh the hospitals won't notice if we cut the staff by 'x'% and make them work longer hours. Then another politician wanted money for something else and said, oh the medical community doesn't need that many hospital beds. And another said, why do we need to invest that much in medical technology??

See the pattern?

We also have a huge crises in keeping doctors in Central and Northern Ontario. My mother only lives 2.5 hours north of Toronto yet she has had to change doctors 6 times in the last 5 years because her community can't keep a doctor in town. I call it the annual Daylight Savings Time Doctor switch! Our medical community also feels underpaid and overworked and the best and brightest are heading for the US.

Most of the time ambulances are redirected to hospitals further away because the closest hospital emergency wards are not accepting any new patients. This could be life and death for many people who are being transported because of heart attacks, stroke,etc.

Too much neglect, poor management, and slashing the budgets for too long a time caused the current problems. A large group of the population across Canada are retiring and as they age they will also add to the stress on the resources. Unfortunately, we are now seeing the effects of the cuts and with the continued growth here in Ontario we will not have a healthy system for awhile. Toronto is growing too fast and we have no place to put our garbage meanwhile recycling programs have taken a back seat, there will be commuter chaos because public transportation is not being promoted or funded properly, and affordable housing is a rarity.

For the last couple of years, the winter flu season has revealed how under funded we were. People were lining the halls in hospitals because there were no beds. There have even been cases where people have died in the hospital hallways waiting for a bed.

The government always says they will give 'x' amount of funding, but this is too little to late.

Can you tell I want to move??

post #8 of 23
Originally posted by adymarie
I also agree that West Nile is much scary - especially as I go up to cottage country often and often get bites!
Actually, I saw a report on West Nile and they said there is no major threat yet in cottage country, it's in your own Toronto back yard that is more of a risk.

Right now we're dealing with city mosquitos, not their cottage cousins!

post #9 of 23
Our county fair opened yesterday and there will be no poultry exhibits because of West Nile. There are a lot of disappointed 4-H kids.
post #10 of 23
From an earlier post, "A few simple precautions are all that is needed - mainly, WASH YOUR HANDS." I have seen a lot of people who are very careless about washing their hands when they are ill, and I don't understand why they can't stop to do such a simple thing. Another way to help prevent the spread of illness is to disinfect doorknobs and other items that are handled frequently. A lot of people probably don't want to be bothered with doing that either.

I work at a nursing home/hospital, and people do come to visit with the elderly even when they are sick. And every year we have a major outbreak of either colds or influensa(sp?} among the residents and staff. As a result, several residents die every year of complications of these illness that can normally be survived. I feel that the Candian health officials are justified in the measures they are taking to prevent the spread of SARS.
post #11 of 23
Are our politicians really so out of touch with "Joe-Six-Pack"? I've never had much faith in U.S. politicians, but I always thought Canadian politicians were a little bit more in touch with reality, were a little bit more cosmopolitan.
post #12 of 23
Has any of you thought that perhaps this might be man made???

I Heard that it's just a Corona virus that mutated... but you know what, it still makes me wonder.

Scary thought huh?
post #13 of 23
Already had that thought.....
post #14 of 23
I guess it's possible, but more likely that it's "just" a mutated virus (like Ebola!). "Mad cow disease" was manmade, because some idiots decided that cows should eat shredded sheep!
post #15 of 23
I was supposed to be going on a two week trip to China in mid-May. But, because of SARS the trip was cancelled. Interestingly, 4 of the 5 of us wanted to go despite SARS, but our Chinese hosts told us that they did not want to travel to places where many people congregate (like the Great Wall). So, we cancelled. I'm really bummed but I certainly understand their concern.
post #16 of 23
Thread Starter 
the death toll in Toronto is up to 15 people as of yesterday - it has a 5.9% mortality rate according to the CDC. I had to stay home yesterday as I had a fever! I am fine now, but they didn't want me at work. My biggest concern is the economic affect this is having on my city. Tourism is down and Hollywood North, as it is called, is losing a lot of business!
post #17 of 23
SARS have prevented me from visiting my family in Singapore.
post #18 of 23
Thread Starter 
The World Health Organization has issued a travel warning about Toronto. Here is the story!

Toronto is attracting attention from places all over the globe. But it's not the sort of notice it wants.

Although health officials and politicians here have slammed a World Health Organization travel advisory for Toronto issued because of S.A.R.S. concerns, the announcement spawned sensational headlines in many countries.

Some of Britain’s highly lauded dailies trumpeted the news on the front page. “Toronto is put into `quarantine' over SARS outbreak,†the Independent newspaper in London wrote on its first page. Inside the paper, a headline read: “One Family Went On Holiday - And Made Toronto A Global Pariah,†on top of a story explaining how the sickness got to Canada.

And the news was given a high priority on the British Broadcasting Corp. and ITV newscasts.

And in Scotland, the Evening Times put a story on its online site and the headline said: “Scots are Warned: Don’t Fly To S.A.R.S.-Hit Toronto.â€

Many American papers also ran reports on the issue, including the Seattle Times and the Washington post.
post #19 of 23
Sorry your trip was cancelled Renea, but at the same time I'm glad you won't have to risk your health.

I don't think it's man-made. At least not as a biological weapon. It's too lousy for a biological weapon - doesn't spread quickly enough and the mortality rate is a joke (again for a weapon - not as a natural disease).

There are still no confirmed cases in Israel but I guess it's just a matter of time. I do hope they'll come up with a vaccine soon. More than anything, I think the panic is terrible for world economy. One of Israel's main exports is polished diamonds to the Far East. With SARS going, people in Hong Kong and China are cancelling their weddings and other family events and as a result, diamonds export has dropped in half over the past few weeks.
post #20 of 23
SARS seems to be having more of an impact on the global economy than the war in Iraq. I don't think the experts really know what the mortality rate is - some are saying 5%, others 15% to 25%. It's hard to judge what to believe.
post #21 of 23
Thread Starter 
It took a trip to Geneva, intense pressure from all levels of government and megamillions in an upcoming advertising campaign, but the World Health Organization is lifting its S.A.R.S. travel advisory on Toronto effective Wednesday.

The long awaited confirmation came from the U.N.-based group’s Director-General Dr. Gro Harlem Brundtland early Tuesday afternoon. “In the last week, in the case of Toronto, we have seen these changes: first of all, the magnitude of probable S.A.R.S. cases has decreased. It has been now 20 days since the last cases of community transmission, and there are no new confirmed export cases out of Toronto or Canada.â€

But Brundtland notes that just because they’re changing their minds, doesn’t mean the problem is resolved. “Toronto still has an outbreak of S.A.R.S. and the lifting of this travel advice does not change the reality that Toronto has a status as an affected area.†She insists there’s ample evidence of cases being exported from Canada, but the W.H.O. hasn’t seen any new ones in a while. Still, she warns they’re keeping an eye on the situation – and that their opinion could change again if the problem flares back up.

The move follows a trip to the W.H.O’s headquarters in Switzerland by Ontario’s Health Minister Tony Clement and the province’s Chief Medical Officer of health Dr. Colin D’Dunha. The ban was imposed last week, leading to many cancellations and devastating the city’s tourism industry. Hotels and restaurants were especially hard hit, after the W.H.O. announcement was proclaimed worldwide, and caused many to rethink their plans about coming here. The government is still planning a multimillion dollar global tourist push to convince reluctant travellers that Toronto is safer now than it’s ever been.

We are safe everyone - come and visit!
post #22 of 23
Ady, I'm so glad it seems to be coming under control. Like Kass pointed out, the effect of travel warnings can be crushing to the economy.

SARS appeard in North Korea and China at about the same time. However unlikely, it seems to have mutated at the same time, despite being a virus that has never been seen in humans before. That is based on information the CDC and WHO have, however. It does not appear to be man-made. The virus is mutating rapidly, however, much like the spanish influenza in the U.S. in the early 1900s, the current thinking is that it appears SARS will mutate into something less "lethal," than it is currently. I'm not a doctor or scientist and have no idea on what they base these theories, but that sure sounds like good news.

However, the CDC just recently increased the SARS "death-rate" to 15%, and 50% for those over 60.

While simply washing your hands is certainly important, unlike any other virus known to man (which lives outside of a human host for at most a few minutes), the SARS virus appears to have a life outside of a human host for up to several hours.

The fact is, the SARS virus is far too new to know much about. The actual death rate is not known (they have two months of data!), it is still mutating too rapidly to develop a "cure" that will work on all SARS cases, etc. etc.

The good news is that the spread, at least in the US and Canada, has slowed dramatically. I think I heard on the news yesterday that no new cases have been reported in the US for seven days.

The impact of SARS, however, will be devastating to the Chinese economy, which is not good news for the rest of the world. China has been the engine of world growth for several years now, and with projected negative GDP growth in China this quarter, the rest of the world is going to feel the pain too.
post #23 of 23
Thread Starter 
Toronto now only has 19 probable case down from over 200 cases 3 weeks ago. Toronto officials are stating the outbreak over as we have had no new cases since April 19th! Yeah!
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