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Interview With Secretary of Health and Human Services Mike Leavitt; Will Harriet Miers' Faith Change Supreme Court; Mystery Illness In Toronto Nursing Home Kills Several; Scientists Discuss Love At First Sight; Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes Expecting A Child

Aired October 5, 2005 - 20:00   ET


PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, everyone. Welcome to a middle of the week here.
Tonight, I want to take a very close look at a threat that could be even more devastating than a terrorist attack, because every single town and city could be at risk.


ZAHN (voice-over): A disease so deadly that, if you get the virus, there's no cure and there's a 50/50 chance you'll die.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm concerned about what an avian flu outbreak could mean for the United States and the world.

ZAHN: What's the worst-case scenario and what are we doing to stop it?

Abortion, gay marriage, assisted suicide, and a born-again nominee. Tonight, the controversial question everyone is asking: Will Harriet Miers' faith change the Supreme Court?

And Hollywood's hottest couple is about to become a threesome. Can love at first sight survive the first baby?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The deal is, it's not feeling in love. It's staying in love.

What do whirlwind romances teach all of us about staying in love?


ZAHN: So, how scary is this? A disease spreads across the globe and kills 100 million people. Well, it happened 87 years ago with a flu outbreak in 1918, 100 million dead.

That's a breathtaking number, but here's one I think is even more frightening. One health official says a global outbreak, a pandemic of avian flu, could kill 150 million people. So far, only about 60 people have died from avian flu, and it hasn't adapted yet to spread from person to person.

Health officials in Asia are trying to keep it that way by killing thousands upon thousands of birds whenever they suspect there's a local outbreak. But, today, a scientist who used to preserve tissue and reverse genetics to recreate the deadly 1980 virus -- 1918 virus -- said there are eerie similarities between that flu strain and avian flu.

And just yesterday, President Bush said the military might have to quarantine whole cities if that flu strikes here. And, last week, the secretary of health said he doesn't sleep at night because of this threat.

Do we have your attention yet?

Well, senior medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta joins me now with more information.

Always good to see you, Doctor.

What did we learn from this report?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, as you said, there are some significant similarities between the 1918 flu virus, which killed some say up to 100 million, and the avian flu virus.

What we're talking about here specifically is a virus that's pretty common, but has certain mutations and these changes in the virus. And these changes are important, because one change might make the virus suddenly a significant killer, as has already happened with the avian flu virus, killing, as you say, 50 percent -- more than 50 percent of the people that get infected.

Another mutation, the one that hasn't happened yet, but could happen, is one that makes it more easily transmissible from human to human. You know, Paula, it's so interesting to sort of look at the science of this. A small just tiny, just microscopic change in the coding in one of these viruses could change it to create a worldwide pandemic. That hasn't happened yet, but that's what these scientists have been looking at, Paula.

ZAHN: But you use a very salient word there: could. And I guess we hear these breathtaking numbers and you have got to wonder if someone out there is hyping this or is this something we really need to be concerned about?

GUPTA: Smart people out there are saying that this is being hyped.

And you're going to hear different things from different people, certainly. But keep in mind a couple of things. These pandemics, which is just a worldwide epidemic, tend to come in cycles. There have been pandemics in the past. Everyone, just about everyone agrees with this point, that we are probably overdue for some sort of pandemic, meaning some virus that the world has never seen before that infects an alarmingly large number of people who have no immunity against it. So, whether it's this particular virus, the avian flu, or something else later on down the road, who knows, but most people, even the skeptics, agree that it's probably going to happen. It's not a question of if anymore, but more a question of when it might happen.

ZAHN: But the skeptics also have to agree with the fact that there seems to be more of a risk that this flu carries than other kinds of flus.


You know, what's so striking about this flu -- and, Paula, everyone's talking about the 1918 flu. That had a 5 percent mortality. That means, out of 100 people, it killed five. This has a 50 percent mortality. That is what has got everyone's attention. That is an extremely, extremely deadly virus. Even by virus standards, this is very, very deadly.

If it kills -- you know, in 1918, that Spanish flu or that particular flu bug, probably everyone in the world breathed that virus in at some point or another. If that happens with avian flu, because it becomes easily transmissible, I mean, it's mind-boggling, really, Paula.

ZAHN: But let's talk about what you would do if it actually comes here. We have a severe shortage of a vaccine that people say wouldn't even be that helpful and then there's this Tamiflu stuff that's pretty widely available right now. Would that make any difference?

GUPTA: Yes, well, you know, the Tamiflu had -- the hard part about these studies in terms of figuring out whether it's effective is, in order to study it, you'd have to knowingly expose people to avian flu. And no one is going to do that as part of the study.

So Tamiflu appears to have some benefit in the laboratory. Would it work if it actually needed to work because there was a lot of cases of it? We don't really know. And, as far as a vaccine goes, Paula, this is -- this is kind of sad. We don't really have an approved vaccine right now. And if this virus were to mutate today, let's say it was mutating right now, we would have to create a vaccine. That would take six months from now to actually develop. So, it's just a very slow and arduous process. Preparation is going to be tough.

People talk about quarantines possibly. That might be part of the at least early answer, Paula.

ZAHN: And, of course, we have heard critics of that possibility say it simply won't work.

GUPTA: Right.

ZAHN: So, we're going to debate all this a little bit later on in tonight's show.

Senior medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta, as always, thanks. So, what exactly happens if bird flu goes global and lands here in the United States? Well, it could mean putting the whole country under quarantine city by city and, as President Bush suggested yesterday, having the military enforce them.

Here's senior Pentagon correspondent Jamie McIntyre.


JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SR. MILITARY AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT (voice- over): Worst case, a mutant strain of avian flu that can be passed from person to person hits America's biggest city, New York. The president orders active duty and National Guard troops to seal the island of Manhattan, closing the airports, including Newark, JFK and La Guardia, and shutting the city's numerous bridges and tunnels.

It's a scenario not unlike the one depicted in the 1995 movie "Outbreak."


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Your town is being quarantined.

DUSTIN HOFFMAN, ACTOR: We got 19 dead, you got 100 more infected. It's spreading like a brushfire.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What are you talking about?

HOFFMAN: If one of them's got it, then 10 of them have got it now.


MCINTYRE: But how practical is the idea that any city, much less one with as many ways in and out as New York, can be sealed by military force?

MICHAEL O'HANLON, BROOKINGS INSTITUTION: How do you possibly limit the flow of people and goods in and out of a city like this? New York needs to have food brought in, it needs to have other things brought in. You need a certain amount of crossing of the perimeter or the city becomes uninhabitable.

MCINTYRE: The reality is these days a quarantine is more likely to attempt to limit movement of infected people by screening passengers at airports, confining sick people to their homes and banning large gatherings of people where the infection can be spread.

What the military brings is the same things it brought to hurricane relief -- logistics and manpower, especially medical facilities and the ability to move them quickly and operate without support. Where the issues get thorny is the Hollywood scenario -- combat troops strong arming, possibly shooting desperate victims of a natural disaster.

O'HANLON: It would be an ugly thing if we had to use the military. Nobody in the armed forces would relish the thought of imposing some kind of a martial law-like environment on their own fellow citizens, especially on law-abiding citizens who had done nothing criminal.


MCINTYRE: One serious challenge for -- that has to be accounted for in the federal government's pandemic response plan is protecting the first-responders.

As you pointed out, Paula, there is no proven vaccine for avian flu. That means they have to come up with other ways to protect the people who would be the first ones on the scene of a disaster.

ZAHN: Jamie McIntyre at the Pentagon, thanks so much for that update.

And, by now, you're probably all wondering the same thing I am. Is the government ready for an avian flu pandemic? An especially important question after what we all have seen following Hurricane Katrina.

We asked senior political correspondent Candy Crowley to find out. The answer is, not by a long shot.


CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SR. POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The president's secretary of health and human services doesn't sleep that well.

MIKE LEAVITT, SECRETARY OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES: We're not as well prepared for this as we want to be and need to be and will be. We're moving rapidly, and -- now that we can see that this particular influenza could be a threat.

CROWLEY: The gap between what's needed and what's there is vast. Where to begin? For starters, vaccine production is not that profitable and the liability risk is high, so even when a dangerous virus is identified, the U.S. does not have the ability to produce enough vaccine.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, NATIONAL INSTITUTES OF HEALTH: The ultimate goal is to build a system so that you can, within a period of time, measured in like six months from the time you get the virus in your hand, make enough vaccine to cover everyone in this country. We are far from there at this point. And it's going to take years to get there.

CROWLEY: Nor is there anywhere near the stockpiles of medicine the U.S. would need for an avian flu pandemic. It is made by a company in Switzerland.

KIM ELLIOTT, TRUST FOR AMERICA'S HEALTH: There's one manufacturer. They're going to fill them on a first-come, first-serve basis, so we're way down the queue. CROWLEY: We are backordered.

ELLIOTT: We are backordered. And we -- we aren't even in line for the big orders.

CROWLEY: Up to two million people in the U.S. might need to be hospitalized, many more people than beds. And what happens when a work force is depleted by an estimated 25 percent who are sick or caring for the sick or too scared to go to work? Experts at all levels say there's no reason to be afraid now, but there is every reason to prepare.

LEAVITT: And we will move forward to a state of preparation that I -- will give people comfort, not certainty, but comfort.

CROWLEY (on camera): We don't have enough vaccine?


CROWLEY: We don't have medication to treat, enough of it to treat...



CROWLEY: Our hospitals don't have enough capacity to treat the number of patients that would come.


CROWLEY: Businesses aren't prepared.

ELLIOTT: That's right.

CROWLEY: Individual families aren't prepared.

ELLIOTT: That's right.

CROWLEY: Why shouldn't I be afraid?

ELLIOTT: You need to think about being prepared but not panicked.

CROWLEY (voice-over): It may be a while before the secretary of health and human services gets a good night's sleep.


ZAHN: That was Candy Crowley reporting for us tonight.

Now, tomorrow, Health and Human Services Secretary Michael Leavitt and health experts from all over the world will begin meeting in Washington to talk about the growing threat from avian flu.

And, just a short while ago, I had the chance to speak with Secretary Leavitt about the U.S. government's ability to deal with a potential outbreak.


ZAHN: We are hearing staggering numbers about the potential of hundreds of millions of people being infected with this virus, a virus that we know kills about half of the people who contract it. You're the man in charge of making sure this country is ready for this prospect. Are we?

LEAVITT: No. No, we're not ready, and nor is any other country on the planet. This is something that requires substantially more attention than it has been given anywhere, and we're now beginning to prepare rapidly.

Now, fortunately, much of the preparation necessary for a pandemic is common to other medical emergencies. And, so, we're not starting from scratch, but we have a long ways to go before we're ready.

ZAHN: If there were to be a suspected case of avian flu, what is the first thing that you would do?

LEAVITT: We would first try to contain it, wherever we found it.

The likelihood is, we would find it in the Far East somewhere. And then the United States and our friends and allies around the world would join together to say to that country, let us help you. And we'd do everything we could to contain it there.

If we were unsuccessful, we'd then begin to protect the borders of the United States in every legitimate, reasonable way to see if we could keep it from coming here. If it then arrived, we would do all we could to contain it in place. And we'd begin other preparations to assure that, if it -- if we weren't successful, that there would be means of being able to limit its damage.

ZAHN: When you talk about containing it, you know that a lot of health officials out there are saying a quarantine isn't the answer. It simply won't work. Your response to that?

LEAVITT: Well, it's one of the basics of public health. And there have been incidences where it has worked. And it's -- if it doesn't work completely, at least it slows it down and allows the rest of our preparation to catch up.

ZAHN: The truth is, you can't really prepare for that eventuality, because you don't know how the virus will present itself. So, is there any way ever to truly get out in front of this and find a vaccine that would simply prevent this?

LEAVITT: Well, actually, once we have identified a victim or some way of being able to get ahold of the virus, our scientists at CDC and at the National Institute of Health are very adept at being able to develop a vaccine that will, in fact, prevent it. That's the case with the avian flu. We have a vaccine. What we lack in this country now is the capacity to manufacture the vaccine in sufficient doses in a short enough time frame to meet the need.

ZAHN: Final tonight, Secretary Leavitt, you have so many health concerns you have to worry about in this country. Where does this avian flu fit in on a scale of one to 10?

LEAVITT: I would have to say that it is our highest public health priority right now, the certainty -- the probability that the H5N1, or avian flu, will be the culprit that brings the next pandemic, it's hard to know.

But the trouble -- the signs are troubling. And so, we're responding to it. We need to begin to think about the unthinkable, because, as we learned in Katrina, sometimes, the unthinkable happens.

ZAHN: Secretary Leavitt, thank you for your candor tonight.

LEAVITT: Thank you.


ZAHN: And, in just a minute, I want to take you to the remote jungles where bird flu first got started. Who's already dying and what are their countries doing to fight it? And can they keep it from spreading here to the U.S.?

Please stay with us. We have got a whole lot ahead.


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DAVID KIRKPATRICK, SR. EDITOR, FORTUNE MAGAZINE: So there will be multiple ways to grow new body parts using your own personal chemistry, that can be either surgically attached or perhaps literally grown out of your own body. If they can regrow a limb in a mouse today, it could very be possible even in less than 10 years that we could be regrowing body parts on our own bodies.



ZAHN: We're talking a lot tonight about the threat of avian flu. Right now, the U.S. doesn't have enough vaccine, medicine or hospital beds to even deal with a catastrophic outbreak of avian flu, a disease that some people say could kill 150 million people all over the world. So far, however, the disease remains in Asia, and people only seem to be getting it for coming into contact with infected birds.

Senior Asia correspondent Mike Chinoy traveled to one of the many places where avian flu lives and breeds.


MIKE CHINOY, CNN SENIOR ASIA CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's so remote, it doesn't have a name. We had to take a dug-out canoe to reach village number four in Thanh Dong (ph) District of Southern Vietnam's Long An Province.

And it was here we found 39-year-old To Thi Hoang, weeping over the grave of her 10-year-old daughter, Vothi Hoang (ph), one of the latest victims of avian influenza, bird flu.

"She kept telling me she was having breathing problems," says To Thi Hoang. "She was crying and saying, I'm so tired. I feel like I'm going to die." And after eight days at the Ho Chi Minh City Children's Hospital, she died.

This is a family of simple rice farmers raising a few chickens on the side. A few days before Vothi Hoang got sick, the family's chickens died. They didn't know why, but doctors later confirmed it was bird flu, and, somehow, the little girl had been infected.

(on camera): It's in villages like this, where people live in close proximity to poultry and other animals, that virtually all the human cases of avian flu in Vietnam have occurred, precisely the setting, experts fear, where the virus could mutate into a form that spreads easily among humans, with devastating consequences.

(voice-over): Aware of the danger, Vietnam has now banned the raising of all water fowl, like ducks and geese, which can carry the virus without showing symptoms, and ordered the slaughter of all 200,000 ducks in Ho Chi Minh City, formerly Saigon, despite the economic loss to thousands of poultry farmers.

But even these harsh steps may not be enough. The government in Hanoi has appealed for help from foreign scientists and for supplies of medical and lab equipment. Although the outbreak is most severe in Vietnam, cases of bird flu with human fatalities have been reported recently in Thailand and Cambodia. And the disease has appeared previously in China, Hong Kong and other countries in the region.

Dr. Hans Troedsson is the World Health Organization's man in Vietnam. He's well aware of that what means.

HANS TROEDSSON, WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION: We would see millions of people dying. And we will have a pandemic that would shut down societies and communities. And conservative estimation says -- it's saying maybe five to seven million deaths. That's conservative. We could be up to 50 or 100 million deaths.

CHINOY: It hasn't happened yet, but throughout Southeast Asia, the virus has become endemic among poultry, especially in Vietnam. And, even though transmission to humans remains relatively rare so far, the disease has already killed dozens of people.

In the village where 10-year-old Vothi Hoang died, the provincial preventive medicine chief, Ngo Van Hoang, visits the locals. His message, be careful. Eating healthy chickens is OK, but don't cook chickens that have gotten sick and died. And don't throw carcasses into the river.

"There is some advice and education we have to have a community understand," he says. "They shouldn't do these kinds of things.'

It's an uphill struggle with enormous stakes to ensure that what happened to Vothi Hoang remains a tragic, but isolated episode, and not the start of a global public health disaster.


CHINOY: Paula, while Vietnam has been ground zero for this outbreak for most of the past year, the disease has now spread to Indonesia, which is more than three times as big, a vast archipelago, thousands of islands, much harder to track. Seven people have died there, one just last week. And public health officials, already anxious, are increasingly worried -- Paula.

ZAHN: So, in the end, Mike, how forthcoming or honest are any of these governments in the region about the potential spread of this flu?

CHINOY: Most governments have been pretty honest. They realize what's at stake. There's a lot of cooperative effort in the region with the World Health Organization. There have been some concerns, though, about China. The Chinese hid the SARS epidemic initially.

And, last summer, there were reports of a mysterious outbreak in northwestern China, where the Chinese basically closed the area down and prevented any information getting out. A researcher here in Hong Kong was able to surreptitiously get samples, which proved that it was avian flu. So, there is some concern that China, with its authoritarian political system, could be a problem if the disease begins to spread among humans there.

ZAHN: Mike Chinoy, thank you so much.

And joining me now, John Barry, author of "The Great Influenza," the flu outbreak in 1918 that killed 100 million people, it's believed, all over the world, and Dr. Irwin Redlener, director of the National Center for Disaster Preparedness at Columbia University.

Good to have both of you with us tonight.


ZAHN: So, John, we just mentioned that staggering number. And it's hard to prove. You see estimates of anywhere from 30 million to 100 million people. That seems unimaginable to grasp. Paint a picture for us of how quickly the flu spread.

JOHN BARRY, AUTHOR, "THE GREAT INFLUENZA": Well, like any influenza, it was explosive.

All influenza viruses are bird viruses. And throughout history, three to four times a century, a new bird virus will jump to people. And whenever that happens, you have a pandemic; 1918 was lethal. But many of your viewers and myself lived through the 1968 pandemic and probably didn't even know there was one, so it's not automatically lethal, but it did spread explosively.

It will -- it will sicken between 15 percent and 40 percent of the population.

ZAHN: So, do those factors exist today that could allow that same kind of thing to happen with avian flu?

BARRY: Oh, certainly, without any doubt. If anything, it moves more quickly because of air travel.

ZAHN: And, Dr. Redlener, the one thing that we just heard Mike Leavitt, the HHS secretary, says, is, we are not prepared for this. Why aren't we?

DR. IRWIN REDLENER, NATIONAL CENTER FOR DISASTER PREPAREDNESS: Well, there's three factors, really that have been determinative here in why we're not prepared.

The first is that it's taken us a long time to develop the technologies that allow for very rapid development of the vaccine once the virus is identified. So, there's a big lag time between the identification of the actual virus and then the -- then when we can get a supply of vaccine that's -- that's reasonable.

The second thing is, we put ourselves in this horrible position where we didn't think about ordering the antiviral medication, what people refer to as Tamiflu, until very, very late, after many other countries had already ordered it. And we had a backlog of a hundred -- I mean, a billion doses already on order at Roche, the only company that makes it. So, we're just in line now. And I doubt that we are going to get even what we wanted.

ZAHN: But not a sure-shot cure, anyway.

REDLENER: Not a sure-shot cure, but...

ZAHN: But they're saying one of two treatment that works.


And then the third factor, of course, is that the whole health and public health system in the United States is just completely not ready to handle any kind of massive number of victims who get sick and really sick from flu.

ZAHN: John, the secretary also said that, on a scale of one to 10, this is a 10, that it is indeed this country's highest public health concern today. Why now?

BARRY: Why now?

Obviously, because -- well, let's put it this way. Between 1957 and 19 -- excuse me, 1968 and 1997, there were two known occurrences where a bird virus infected a person. Neither of them were fatal. Between 1997 and today, three different viruses have infected roughly 300 people, and two of those viruses have killed people.

So, you know, the odds are -- again, there's a pandemic three, four times a century. We haven't had one in almost 40 years. It's just -- you know, chance suggests that we're due for one.

ZAHN: Sure. You can crunch these statistics and interpret it that way.


ZAHN: But you have critics of this administration saying they're much hyping this right now.

Dr. Redlener, what do you think?

REDLENER: Well, the problem is, we just came off a disastrous response to a major natural catastrophe in Katrina and then Rita in the evacuation efforts that we saw.

So, I think there's definitely political issues in terms of how the administration was perceived, how competent we looked at a country. And I'm sure there's a lot of panic within the White House and the administration about not wanting to be caught ill-prepared again. But, unfortunately, there's very little we could do about that at this point.

ZAHN: When could it potentially hit here, any day? Are you talking about six months? What are we talking about?

REDLENER: Well, it's just really hard to say. We just don't know when that virus will mutate, so it's able to be transmitted among people, as opposed to just from, say, poultry to a person or a bird to a person.

So, it could happen this year; it could happen two years from now, five years from now. But I think it's pretty inevitable, just because of the frequency of this, as John was saying, that it's going to occur. Just, it's not clear when.

ZAHN: So frightening.


BARRY: Could I say...

ZAHN: Yes. Please jump in, John.

BARRY: In terms of the administration's actions -- I'm a Democrat, but the fact is, this has been on the administration's agenda since 2001, before September 11. They were paying close attention to it before Katrina and planning initiatives and had vastly expanded it. So, on this one issue, I'm not particularly cynical about their motives.

ZAHN: You don't seem so convinced, Dr. Redlener, that that isn't...

REDLENER: I'm not so convinced.

ZAHN: ... politically motivated.


REDLENER: There were people in the administration, as John says, that were very interested in this. It didn't reach the White House's level of attention as it is until very, very recently.

ZAHN: Well, we appreciate your both educating us tonight.

Dr. Irwin Redlener and John Barry, thank you, again.

REDLENER: Thank you.


ZAHN: And just don't worry about bird flu. There's a mystery disease that's even closer to home. Now, coming up, what's killing people just across the U.S. border in one of Canada's most modern cities?


ZAHN: I know after hearing so much about the threat of avian flu, what you're about to hear may be even more unsettling. A nursing home just outside of Toronto this week is ground zero for a deadly medical mystery.

So far, 16 people have been killed and nearly 40 more are sick. And while it's not avian flu, no one knows exactly what's causing it. Keith Oppenheim is in Toronto for us tonight, has the very latest details for us right now. Hi, Keith.

KEITH OPPENHEIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Paula. And this is a story which certainly sounds bad, and it is getting some people in Toronto understandably nervous. The thing is, viral outbreaks of this kind are a lot more common than you might think.


OPPENHEIM (voice-over): The Seven Oaks Home for the Aged in suburban Toronto is under attack. The culprit, a virus that still has not been identified. It was just a week and a half ago some of the most vulnerable patients at Seven Oaks began to get very ill.

DR. DAVID MCKEOWN, TORONTO DEPT. OF PUBLIC HEALTH: This outbreak has resulted today in six additional deaths among ill residents. OPPENHEIM: Toronto public health officials now report the death toll has risen to 16 residents of the nursing home. All had previous medical conditions. Most were in their 80s and 90s.

In addition, 72 other people have been infected by the virus. Some are staff at Seven Oaks, some visitors. One woman whose husband is a resident worried about the unknown.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They're doing their best -- let's put it that way -- to get it under control, but what it really is, I don't know.

OPPENHEIM: Three different labs in Canada are trying to identify the virus. But it turns out in more than half of outbreaks like this, health officials in Ontario are unable to isolate the source of the disease.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A significant percentage of outbreaks just never will find the organism, but we're looking for everything we can think of.

OPPENHEIM: Thirty-eight people exposed to the virus have been taken to Toronto hospitals. Officials here say the health of some patients is deteriorating, but most are getting better. A nine-year- old boy wondered what will happen to his grandfather.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I hope the hospital's safer and that he can be healthy and not die.

OPPENHEIM: In the meantime, the nursing home has been closed to new patients and is, for the most part, keeping its doors shut.

AL DOBBINS, NURSING HOME RESIDENT: To me has been cooped up, you know? I mean, I'm so -- I'm so used to the outside, you know? And all of a sudden, bang.

OPPENHEIM: As dire as all this may seem, health experts here say this is all an extreme example of a common occurrence. Across Canada and the U.S., viral outbreaks routinely kill elderly and sick patients with weakened immune systems.

MCKEOWN: It's within the range of our experience in Ontario, but it's definitely at the severe end.

OPPENHEIM: With no new cases reported in the last 24 hours, health experts here believe the mysterious outbreak is being contained. They say it poses no danger to the general public. But for the people who have relatives at Seven Oaks, it may be some time before they can feel that the threat of contagious illness is behind them.


K OPPENHEIM: Keep in mind it was just two years ago there was a severe outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, or SARS, right here in Toronto. Forty-four people died. There were certainly a lot of jitters in the community about that back then.

But the difference between the SARS case and this one is this one pertains to a single long-care facility and having said that, this is the worst of its kind in Toronto with 16 people dead. Epidemiologists tell us in general, Paula, that while it's very common, Toronto is dealing, again, with an extreme example of a common occurrence.

ZAHN: Yes, it's very scary. Keith Oppenheim, thanks.

In a moment, I want us to focus on a question that's worrying both liberals and conservatives. We know so little about Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers, but we do know she's a born-again evangelical Christian. How could that affect the court and the country?


ZAHN: Like a lot of you out there, I want to learn a whole lot more about Harriet Miers, President Bush's choice for the Supreme Court. Tonight, one thing is clear -- Miers and the president share a life-changing Christian faith and the White House is actually making a point of that in an attempt to win over those conservatives who are questioning her qualifications.

Our faith and values correspondent Delia Gallagher has been looking at all of this. She joins me now. Good to see you.


ZAHN: So let's start with that one common bond between the president and Harriet Miers. We mentioned they're both evangelical, born-again Christians. How do you think this will help shape the president's fight to get her on the Supreme Court?

GALLAGHER: Well, I think it's a big selling point for him because he needs -- in the absence of her sort of judicial record, he needs to show conservatives that he knows this woman and that she is a conservative and that she can be trusted and that he can be trusted, so I think that that common bond is something that they are trying to put forward to give people little bit more information about just who she is because we don't have the voting record.

ZAHN: But isn't promoting her religious conservatism a two-edged sword for this president? Doesn't it give immediate ammunition to her potential critics out there?

GALLAGHER: Well, sure, but he's got to be concerned with the people that are going to vote her in, and so he needs to make sure he's got the conservatives on board and I think that's what he's kind of focusing on at this point. She is a woman who is devoutly Christian, evangelical, as you said, and that's not necessarily a strike against her.

ZAHN: What do we know about her commitment to her faith? What have we learned? GALLAGHER: Well, I talked to the pastor of her church down in Dallas, Texas, and I talked also to Judge Nathan Hecht, who of course is her good friend and who was the person responsible -- he's a judge on the Texas Supreme Court. He was the person responsible for bringing her to this church.

She had a convergent experience in her 30s. You know, she was born a Catholic and then she converted to this evangelicalism and so Judge Hecht said, you know, she is pro-life. He says that this is something which he has discussed with her, but not necessarily we are to extrapolate from that how she will vote and this was something I heard over and over again, that regardless of what the views of the church were, or ...

ZAHN: And her church sees abortion as murder as well.

GALLAGHER: Yes, her church would agree that abortion is murder. Her church calls themselves pro-life and pro-family, but the pastor pointed out to me that, you know, there is no test for membership, so he may suggest this and most members may be assumed to also agree to that, but it's not necessarily the case that every single member of this church has to adhere to those things.

And, secondly, as Judge Hecht pointed out, it's not the case necessarily that if one does adhere to that kind of a moral issue, that the judgment in the case of a judge is going to follow on a certain case.

ZAHN: Have you learned anything more about the strategy that this president and his administration will continue to use to try to move this nomination forward?

GALLAGHER: No, I don't know about that, Paula. I mean, I think that, you know, this is something we've got to watch. How is it going to be received, this kind of faith of this woman who, by the way, was considered very devout, very involved in her church, and how much is that going to play into the decision to confirm her for the Supreme Court? I just don't know.

ZAHN: We will be watching it very closely from here. Delia Gallagher, thanks for dropping by.

There is a huge story out of Hollywood today. Get ready for another ocean of ink on Tom Cruise and -- guess who -- Katie Holmes' whirlwind romance. Coming up, what happens to love at first sight when baby makes three?


ZAHN: There's a lot happening tonight on the Gulf coast and we want to keep you up to date on all that. People still reeling from Katrina and Rita and the hurricane season far from over.

And if you live in the northern part of the state of Florida, I'm sure you know that already. The center of Tropical Storm Tammy is very near Jacksonville right now. It formed overnight and is so close to the coast, it probably won't get much stronger.

Tammy's expected to make landfall tonight or tomorrow along the Florida/Georgia border bringing three to five inches of rain to some areas that could actually use it, but no one needs the tornadoes that Tammy is expected to spawn as well.

Now onto Louisiana and a shocking announcement about two New Orleans hospitals. State officials were both told today that both Charity Hospital and University Hospital are so dangerous, they're beyond repair and unsalvageable. Both were flooded when Katrina broke New Orleans' levees.

More money troubles and a possible solution. The sheriff of St. Bernard Parish right outside of New Orleans told CNN this morning that he didn't have enough money to meet today's payroll. Well, yesterday New Orleans mayor announced the layoff of 3,000 city workers because of the cash crunch caused by Hurricane Katrina. A short time ago, the White House announced it will ask Congress to change the rules to allow federal disaster funds to be used to fund first responders' salaries.

Well, in the meantime, at least one thing is getting back to normal. Passenger trains will be rolling again as of Saturday. Amtrak is resuming service on the city of New Orleans to Memphis and Chicago as well as the Crescent to Atlanta and New York. Because of damage from Hurricane Rita, service can't resume on the Sunset Limited to L.A. and other trains that head west.

For this hour's other top stories, time to check in with Erica Hill at HEADLINE NEWS. Hi, Erica.

ERICA HILL, HEADLINE NEWS ANCHOR: Thanks, Paula. Federal officials say the sister boat of the tour boat which capsized in New York State has now failed a stability test. The National Safety Transportation Board used barrels of water to check whether a similar boat could bear the weight of 48 people.

That's the number of people on board the Ethan Allen when it overturned. Well, they say the sister boat fell far short of the mark. Twenty elderly passengers died when the Ethan Allen capsized Sunday on Lake George in New York.

Emergency workers searching the rubble of a Shiite mosque in Iraq that was attacked by a suicide bomber to see if any victims remain. At least 25 people were killed, dozens wounded in the attack in Hilla south of Baghdad. Shiite worshipers were marking the start of the Ramadan holy month when the attacker hit.

CIA Chief Porter Goss says he won't order disciplinary reviews for agency officials on their performance before the September 11th attacks. A Congressional panel on 9/11 had asked the CIA to decide whether any officials, including Former CIA Chief George Tenet, should be held responsible for intelligence failures before the attacks.

Today Goss said it would have been impossible to stop 9/11 and the disciplinary action would only make it hard tory attract and to keep qualified CIA employees.

And finally, this teenager's prowess on the golf course is making her a very wealthy young woman. Michelle Wie turned pro today, just a week before her 16th birthday. She signed endorsement deals with Nike and Sony worth a cool $10 million. Now Wie immediately said she donating half a million dollars to hurricane relief, Paula. Not bad.

ZAHN: Good for her. Setting a wonderful example for all of us there no matter how much we can contribute to help out the victims down there. Thanks so much, Erica.

Today's big news about Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes got some of us thinking, what's really behind love at first sight? Can it keep going when a baby comes along? I think you'll like our next story. It deals with real people and Tinseltown, too.


ZAHN: When Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes met last summer they just wanted to shout out to the world how happy they were together. Well, today, we learned they're going to have a baby. Theirs is plainly one of those cases, it seems, of love at first sight and that got us all wondering, what does it take to make love last?


ZAHN (voice-over): Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes are the most recent famous couple to be struck by Cupid's arrow.

Love at first sight ending up in a marriage proposal just three months after meeting. And now, a baby on the way. But theirs is not the first whirlwind romance.

DANNY PERASA, PROPOSED ON FIRST DATE: Just because it's over a quarter of a century, you wouldn't think things changed that much.


D. PERASA: Not me, I just got a little more skin on top of my head.

ZAHN: Meet Danny and Annie Perasa of Brooklyn, New York.

A. PERASA: He asked me to marry him on the first date.

D. PERASA: As I asked her, there were little alarms screaming in my, you knnw -- what are you doing? She's going to think you're a fool, blah, blah, blah, and I asked her anyway.

A. PERASA: And I turned around and said to him, I knew you were going to say that and I say yes.

ZAHN: That memorable day was more than 28 years ago.

A. PERASA: I actually felt that I could hear him think what he was going to say next. And I said, Hi've never met a person like this in my life. I was so happy. I finally found the man that I wanted to marry.

ZAHN: Helen Fisher, an anthropologist who studies love, says there's a biological reason for that instant attraction.

HELEN FISHER, ANTHROPOLOGIST, RUTGERS UNIVERSITY: I think love at first sight comes out of nature. I mean, I think we've evolved this brain system to become deeply attracted to other people and that all animals do. There's not an animal on this planet that will copulate with anybody. They all have favorites.

ZAHN: Fisher, along with Dr. lucy Brown, a professor of neurology at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, are part of a team of doctors who have been studying exactly what happens to the brain of a person who falls madly in love. The findings were recently published in the "Journal of Neurophysiology."

FISHER: This is the front of the brain, this is the back of the brain, and the two regions of activation that were specific for early stage intense romantic love.

ZAHN: For the first time, MRI brain scans show what happens in the early stages of romantic love. As test subjects looked at photos of their beloved, the doctors discovered increased activity in some of the more primitive parts of the brain. The findings suggest that romantic love is a drive, like hunger, thirst, even the will to live.

FISHER: This center becomes active, probably makes dopamine, sprays that dopamine to many brain regions, and gives you that intense elation, that focused attention, that obsessive thinking and that drive.

ZAHN: The doctors say no love can even look like mental illness.

DR. LUCY BROWN, ALBERT EINSTEIN SCHOOL OF MEDICINE: People tend to act a little crazy and, sometimes, appear not to be behaving in their self-interest or they may be so happy that they get up and jump up and down in public when they normally couldn't. They're feeling this complete euphoria.

ZAHN: But as strong as the drive for romantic love is, eventually, the euphoria of early stage love wanes, the doctors say usually two to three years into a relationship.

Remember these famous couples? Pamela Anderson and Tommy Lee met and married within four days. But they were split for good four years later. More recently in the headlines, Renee Zellweger and Kenny Chesney. They met, married and split up all within nine months. It's a scenario all too familiar to couples therapist Ian Kerner.

IAN KERNER, COUPLES THERAPIST: I think part of the reason is because that love at first sight or that sense ever infatuation that sense of sexual chemistry, those sparks have sort of waned and they don't have the tools to keep it going.

ZAHN: Not so for the Perasas, they learned early on.

D. PERASA: The deal is, it's not falling in love, it's staying in love.

ZAHN: Like many couples, their early passionate love turned into long-term attachment.

D. PERASA: What keeps our love alive is the feeling that we have each other, that each one is there with a large majoirty of their day, their time, devoted to thoughts of the other.

The idea is, if you care for a lady, tell her you care for her and mean it, and try and think of a way to show it. And if she cares for you, you can't catch a forward pass without it being thrown and it can't be completed without being caught.

A. PERASA: That's right.


ZAHN: Clone them, they're great. We'll be right back.


ZAHN: And that's it for all of us here tonight. We really appreciate your dropping by, and we heard an awful lot tonight about the threat of avian flu, and I want you to know that Dr. Sanjay Gupta, our senior medical correspondent, will be following every major development in this story.

So again, that wraps it up for all of us here tonight. Really appreciate your joining us. We'll be back same time, same place tomorrow night. LARRY KING LIVE starts right now.


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