Lab tests exclude SARS in British Columbia outbreak

Aug 25, 2003 (CIDRAP News) – Laboratory analysis has ruled out the SARS coronavirus as a cause of nearly 150 cases of respiratory illness at a nursing home in a suburb of Vancouver, B.C., according to regional public health officials.

The virus appears to be another member of the coronavirus family, officials said. Earlier indications of the presence of a coronavirus had prompted concern about SARS and increased infection control precautions.

"We have clearly found large sequences of the virus that are not present in the SARS coronavirus," said Dr. David Patrick, director of epidemiology at the British Columbia Center for Disease Control. Patrick, quoted in an Aug 22 news release from the Fraser Health Authority, said the genetic studies confirmed the evidence from epidemiologic and clinical findings.

Genome sequencing of the virus involved in the outbreak "points to a known family of human coronaviruses, related to OC43," the press release says. The symptoms caused by this family of viruses are consistent with those of the patients at Kinsmen Place Lodge in Surrey. Ninety-six residents and 51 staff members there have had mostly mild cold-like symptoms since the outbreak began in early July, officials said.

"Our public health response was necessarily cautious until we figured out what agent we were dealing with, " Dr. Perry Kendall, provincial health officer for British Columbia, said in the news release. "Our ability to respond quickly and effectively has really shown the benefit of working collaboratively at all levels and the value of having laboratory and research capacity within our public health network."

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