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Canada Removes One Death From SARS-Linked Toll

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TORONTO, June 5 (AFP) - Canada Thursday took one death off its SARS-related death toll, which now stands at 31, but was reviewing two more recent deaths as possibly SARS-linked, signaling health officials were trying not to let one SARS case slip by.

Canada is the only country outside Asia to report any SARS-related deaths, all of them have occurred in the Toronto area.

Toronto, Canada's largest city, is on the tail-end of its second SARS outbreak, which health officials reported publicly two weeks ago.

Six of the 31 deaths have been linked to this outbreak, which has been traced back to a 96-year-old man, whose SARS diagnosis was not discovered until some three weeks after his death on May 1.

Health officials said Thursday they were removing a 59-year-old man, who died May 20, from the list of SARS-related deaths. The man, who had first been listed as 60 years old, was added Monday to the SARS-linked death toll.

"We do not believe that this death was a SARS death," said Ontario's commissioner for public security, James Young.

He explained that one relative of the man had had SARS and had contracted it from a patient in the same hospital room. Since one relative had SARS, he was assumed to have it too.

"When we reviewed the case in detail -- took the chart and went right through it -- in fact the prevailing opinion is that (he) didn't have SARS. (He) died of his other illnesses," Young said.

Meanwhile, two other deaths, including another already counted in the SARS-linked death toll, also were being reviewed, he noted.

"We're going to look at their symptoms and look at their exposure and see if it fits. It's very difficult to sort these things out. ... We'll have the results hopefully tomorrow or the day after," Young said.

Five other deaths that officials listed as suspicious last weekend were cleared as not being SARS-related this week.

Canada reported 83 probable and suspect cases nationwide, up two from Wednesday. All but one of them occurred in the Toronto area; one suspect case was in British Columbia.

Ontario province, whose capital is Toronto, reported Thursday 68 probable cases, up one from Wednesday.

Toronto also had 14 suspect cases, 120 people under investigation as a precautionary measure and some 920 people in quarantine at home to see if SARS symptoms of fever, dry cough or difficulty breathing develop.

Officials were remaining very cautious even as the outbreak was waning.

At the time of the second outbreak, hospital workers had stopped using protective gear -- such as gloves, masks and gowns -- because Toronto had not had a new SARS case in more than two SARS incubation periods, or 20 days. Without protection, the illness spread easily from patient to worker and then to others.

All hospitals were directed to start putting on double gloves and masks one day after it had emerged.

"This is probably more than is necessary ... (but) we want to make sure that we don't spread SARS inadvertently," Young said.

Around the world more than 770 people have died from SARS and some 8,400 have become infected since it first emerged in November in China.



COPYRIGHT 2003 Agence France-Presse. All rights reserved.

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