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Toronto, Taiwan deal with new SARS cases

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WASHINGTON, May 27, 2003 (United Press International via COMTEX) -- Toronto and Taiwan continued to struggle with new cases of severe acute respiratory syndrome Tuesday as the disease appeared to be dwindling in other regions such as China and Hong Kong.

The Canadian city is dealing with its second outbreak as a man hospitalized for surgery apparently contracted SARS and spread it to others before it was realized he had the disease and appropriate precautions were taken.

Toronto appeared to have its first outbreak of SARS under control just two weeks ago and World Health Organization officials removed it from the list of areas travelers should avoid. Now Toronto could face a significant new outbreak of the respiratory illness. Eight new cases and three deaths were reported over the weekend and officials are investigating dozens of suspected infections.

Canada now has a total of 148 SARS cases and 27 deaths from the disease, most of them occurring in the Toronto area.

On Monday, WHO added Toronto back to the list of areas with recent local transmission of SARS but so far has not returned the city to the avoid-travel list.

Tanya Cholakov, spokeswoman for Ontario's Ministry of Health and Long-term Care, told United Press International that officials there were taking a number of steps to curtail the new outbreak, including shutting down hospitals with SARS patients and stepping up their efforts at infection control.

"Ontario is working under the new normal," Cholakov said, referring to the measures officials have implemented to keep SARS from spreading.

North York General Hospital, Scarborough General Hospital and St. John's Rehabilitation Hospital have been closed. The facilities "are closed to patient transfers, visitors and everything," she said.

In addition, St. Michael's Hospital's neurosurgery unit has been isolated.

Individuals who were at either of these four hospitals in the latter half of May are being asked to self-isolate themselves and contact health officials.

Officials in Toronto are confident the measures are working because so far the disease has been limited to the healthcare setting, Cholakov said.

Meanwhile, Taiwan continues to struggle with its outbreak and officials report there now are more cases there than in Singapore, which was one of the areas initially hardest hit by the disease. Taiwan reported 13 new cases Tuesday, and the cumulative total now stands at 596 infections and 76 deaths.

In other areas of Asia, the disease appears to be coming under control:

China reported nine new cases and four more deaths -- a drop-off from the time when China had been reporting more than 100 new cases per day. The country now has a total of 5,322 people infected and 321 fatalities.

All of the new cases and deaths occurred in China's capital city, Beijing.

Last week, WHO officials removed the Guangdong province and Hong Kong from its list of areas travelers should avoid due to SARS, as the disease appeared to have stopped spreading there.

Hong Kong reported only two new cases Tuesday, bringing its total to 1,728, including 269 fatalities.

Worldwide, 8,221 cases of SARS and 735 deaths have been reported in 28 countries since the outbreak began.

Copyright 2003 by United Press International.

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