SARS developments in Canada and China

Aug 15 (CIDRAP News) – Two more deaths from SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) occurred this week in Toronto, one of them in a heathcare worker. That brings the total number of deaths in Canada to 44. Eight people remain hospitalized with the illness in Toronto.

In other SARS developments in Canada, 97 of 142 patients and 46 of 160 staff in a nursing home in a Vancouver suburb have had a mysterious respiratory illness in the past month. The World Health Organization (WHO) and Canadian health authorities have stressed that the cases do not represent an outbreak of SARS because they do not fit the case definition, WHO spokesman Iain Simpson said today. However, Dr. Shaun Peck, deputy provincial health officer, told reporters at a British Columbia Centre for Disease Control press conference, "It appears to be a SARS-like virus." WHO, the Centers for Disease Control, British Columbia officials, and Health Canada are monitoring are working together and monitoring the situation closely.

Elsewhere, Chinese farmers have been allowed by agriculture officials in their country to resume selling the animals thought to have been the source of the SARS outbreak in the Guangdong province which then spread worldwide. The animals, masked palm civets, are considered a delicacy in some parts of China. While farmers can begin selling them again, the Chinese provinces hold the authority to allow or bar human consumption of the animals. Research is ongoing to determine whether civets were indeed the source of the outbreak.

Also in that part of the world, Hong Kong's Advisory Committee on Immunization is urging a strong push for flu vaccinations this season, according to BBC News. The reason is that if SARS recurs, its early symptoms are difficult to distinguish from flu, which could allow SARS to spread because of misdiagnosis. Fewer cases of flu would alleviate this to some degree.

SARS cases worldwide as reported by WHO stand at 8,422 with 916 deaths. In the United States, 192 cases have occurred, 159 suspected cases, and 38 probable cases, reports the CDC.

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