Toronto, May 26 (Reuters): Canadian health officials said today they had detected more possible SARS cases and warned of additional deaths as the WHO put Toronto back on its list of SARS-infected areas, just 12 days after it was taken off.
Dr Allison McGeer, director of infection control at Mount Sinai Hospital, said more possible cases were detected overnight but exact figures are expected later in the day.
Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome resurfaced late last week in Canada’s financial capital, after more than a month of no new cases. There are 291 possible and suspect SARS cases in Ontario, mostly around Toronto.
Twenty-seven people are dead in the Toronto area, the only place outside Asia where the virus, which originated in southern China, has claimed lives.
“There is no doubt that more people are going to die in this outbreak. This is a disease where people become progressively more ill over three sometimes four weeks,” McGeer said.
The latest outbreak of the deadly flu-like illness has sent more than 800 people into quarantine. A 96-year-old man who had surgery in a hospital north of Toronto, is thought to have spread the disease in April.
when he was transferred to a rehabilitation facility. But officials do not know exactly how he contracted the virus.
”We believe what happened, most likely, was somebody who appeared to have community-acquired pneumonia slipped through, but (he) had SARS,” McGeer said. “We knew this was going to be very difficult to distinguish.
”If we treat everybody who has community-acquired pneumonia as if they have SARS, we will paralyse the health-care system.”
A team of experts from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control is expected to arrive soon in the city to help combat the spread of SARS in hospitals.
The WHO's decision is a fresh blow to Toronto, scrambling to restore its economy and image. Health officials in Ontario have said they do not think the WHO will reimpose a travel advisory against Toronto.
Tony Clement, Ontario's health minister, said on Monday: ”We'd rather not be on any list but the WHO has to do its job.”
A weeklong WHO travel advisory against Toronto in April sent the city's economy into a tailspin. Thousands of hotel workers lost their jobs as vacancy rates fell to 30 percent because of cancelled events and conventions.
Worldwide, the virus has killed around 725 people and infected nearly 8,200. Most of the deaths and cases have happened in China, Hong Kong and Taiwan.