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CNN SATURDAY

Toronto Copes With Outbreak of SARS

Aired April 19, 2003 - 13:41   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

ANDREA KOPPEL, CNN ANCHOR: With more than 3,000 cases reported worldwide, SARS is impacting communities everywhere, including Toronto, Canada, which has the largest outbreak outside of Asia. CNN's Colleen McEdwards reports that it is a difficult task to control both the fear and the virus surrounding it.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COLLEEN MCEDWARDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In Toronto's Chinatown, empty markets and empty restaurants. Many say it's fear of SARS that's keeping customers away. The Nguyen (ph) family owns a restaurant there.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Usually, now we full, but now you see, there are no...

MCEDWARDS: Not full.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Lots of people get very scared of that because on the radio you hear that. And I hope they find the cure for that soon to recall my business.

MCEDWARDS: Business he says that's down 50 percent. And for the city's hospital staff, a new reality -- lining up for SARS screening every day before their shift begins.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They take your temperature, and you have to wear a mask and gown and gloves.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They're doing this to make sure that things stay under control, so it's just definitely -- they're being very cautious, which is good.

MCEDWARDS (on camera): Most surgery has been canceled in this huge metropolitan area and at least one hospital shut down. Drastic measures to try to control this outbreak. And now questions about how long officials can keep this effort up, to fight a virus that's here to stay.

DR. ELLIOTT HALPARIN, ONTARIO MEDICAL ASSOCIATION: We're learning as we go. Certainly, one of main points of controlling, containing it, is it allows us to buy time. It allows us to buy time either to find a treatment that works or to develop a vaccine. MCEDWARDS (voice-over): But how much time? Scientists have pinpointed the virus that causes SARS, but there's no easy test for it yet. And most agree a vaccine is at best, months away. And the virus is showing its muscle. A single unnoticed case in this hospital spread through a religious group, and landed 600 people in quarantine, and the original victim died. Now health officials are considering using electronic tracking devices to enforce quarantine orders.

HALPARIN: What it points to is basically just how vigilant everyone has to be and just how important it is that when people are asked to go into quarantine that they actually do it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Doctors can sometimes differ in their clinical opinion.

MCEDWARDS: Every day health officials brief the public to get information out and calm nerves. Even Canada's prime minister came to Chinatown for a photo opportunity. The message...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I want to eat now.

MCEDWARDS: ... it is safe to go about your business. But the neighborhood's empty restaurants and quiet streets show that the SARS scare may be as resilient as the virus itself.

Colleen McEdwards, CNN, Toronto.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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