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Canada reports 30th death from SARS

More than 7,800 Canadians under quarantine

A sign proclaims, 'No Visitors,' to North York General Hospital in Toronto, Canada, after the recent SARS outbreak.
A sign proclaims, 'No Visitors,' to North York General Hospital in Toronto, Canada, after the recent SARS outbreak.

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Canadian health officials admit they let their guard down too soon, leading to more cases of -- and deaths from -- SARS.
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The World Health Organization has returned Toronto to its list of areas where there is local transmission of the SARS virus.
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Chinese healthcare workers, hailed as 'warriors in white robes' are getting the hero treatment.
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Mayo Clinic

(CNN) -- A 57-year-old man has died of SARS in Toronto, Ontario, bringing Canada's death toll from the virus to 30, Canadian health officials said Friday.

Meanwhile, thousands remained quarantined as Canada struggles to contain a second SARS outbreak.

The death comes a day after Canadian officials said they would begin using a broader definition of what constitutes a SARS case.

Under the new guidelines, the number of suspected and probable cases in Ontario's latest outbreak has grown from 33 to 43, including those patients who died but whose causes of death have not been determined. On Thursday, the national agency Health Canada said that of the 33 probable cases, four people have died.

In addition, another 149 people are at "various stages of investigation," said Dr. Colin D'Cunha, Ontario's public health commissioner.

Some of the latter group are likely to be classified as probable cases, but D'Cunha put the number in perspective by pointing out that during the height of Toronto's initial outbreak, in March, as many as 3,000 people were under investigation. Fewer than 300 ever became "probable" cases.

In both probable and suspect cases, patients have respiratory symptoms and fever. A case is deemed probable if the patient also has lung illness confirmed by an X-ray.

The increase is partly due to the recent adoption by Ontario officials and Health Canada of the broader case definition of SARS -- severe acute respiratory syndrome -- recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) and every other country.

In addition to the rising number of cases, D'Cunha said more than 7,800 people are now in home quarantine, including 444 health care workers. Unlike isolation, which applies to those with SARS symptoms, quarantine is for asymptomatic people who may have come into contact with SARS sufferers.

Hospitals "overburdened"

In Markham, a Toronto suburb, a Catholic high school was closed Thursday in response to a student's suspected case of SARS, a spokesman with Ontario's Education Ministry told CNN.

Health officials told about 2,000 students and teachers at Father Michael McGivney Catholic Academy late Wednesday to isolate themselves in home quarantine, because the student attended classes last week while showing symptoms of SARS.

Several hundred more health care workers are in working quarantine, which means they may continue to work around patients as long as they follow strict guidelines, such as taking private transportation to their jobs and donning protective wear that must be changed with each new patient.

Although officials said quarantines are effective, there were hints of a tougher policy. D'Cunha said some high school students had broken their quarantine, and if they continued to do so, they could be forced into hospital isolation.

Dr. James Young, Ontario's commissioner of public security, said hospitals were "overburdened" and urged people to avoid them if possible.

"If people are sick, rather than going to the emergency room, we would ask them to call Tele-Health and ask questions and get advice. If at all possible, we would advise people to stay out of emergency rooms this period," he said.

Young also asked that people with friends or relatives in a hospital reduce their number of visits.

There was one lighter moment during the news conference Friday, when Young asked people to be thankful for the sacrifices and hard work of Toronto's health care workers.

"Remember the work that they are doing and tell and them and show your appreciation," Young said. "If you're sure you're symptom-free, and they're symptom free, hug a health care worker. And I remind you, we're health workers, too."

Canadian authorities say the link between the current group of cases and the initial cluster is a 96-year-old man who died May 1 after what doctors thought were two bouts with pneumonia. They did not link his illness to SARS until the new cases emerged.

The WHO lifted a previous travel ban May 14, after deciding that Toronto's initial SARS outbreak was under control and that the illness was no longer being spread locally.

China warns against complacency

After a spike in the numbers a day earlier, Taiwan's Center for Disease Control announced Friday seven new probable SARS cases, bringing the cumulative number to 667. The death toll from the illness on the island held steady at 81 for a second day.

Taiwan trails only mainland China and Hong Kong in total SARS cases, but is currently the most active region for the outbreak.

In mainland China, where the number of new cases is dwindling in urban centers, a top Chinese health official warned against thinking the worst was over.

Vice Minister of Health Gao Qiang warned, "There is still a long way to go toward eventual elimination of SARS. In the meantime, we cannot relax our vigilance."

On Friday, seven more SARS cases and one death were reported in China.

In early May, he said, the average number of new cases per day was 151. It had declined to 45 by mid-May and to 14 by the end of the month.

Russia confirmed its first SARS case Wednesday, a 25-year-old man who lives in a town bordering China. (Full story)


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