More SARS Deaths as World Cases Near 3,000

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Health officials in Canada said Saturday that three more people had died of severe acute respiratory syndrome, bringing the country’s SARS death toll to 13. All the deaths have been in the Toronto area.

According to the Canadian Broadcasting Corp., the three latest victims were all women in their 70s and 80s. One died Friday night, the other two on Saturday morning. All fell ill after coming in direct contact with other SARS patients in early March, CBC said.


There have now been about 275 cases of SARS in Canada, the network said.

“Efforts to respond to SARS and contain the disease continue around the clock,” Dr. James Young, Ontario’s commissioner of public safety, told CBC.

In Saturday’s update on SARS, the World Health Organization said that 2,960 cases, with 119 deaths, had been reported from 19 countries. That’s an increase of 70 cases and three deaths from Friday.

In Asia, where the disease has so far been most widespread, Radio Television Hong Kong said that Hong Kong had 49 new cases of SARS, with three deaths. The total number of cases recorded in the territory stood at 1,108, with 35 dead, RTHK said. The latest three victims were a 67-year-old man and two individuals aged 39 and 35, Deputy Director of Health Lam Pingyan said.

Also according to RTHK, the Hong Kong-based airline Cathay Pacific denied it planned to stop operations because of the epidemic. Cathay made the statement amid reports that it was considering grounding its entire passenger fleet due to mounting losses, RTHK said. The airline said it had cancelled 42 percent of its schedule.

*In the Philippines, the Today newspaper reported on its Web site that the country was “technically” free of SARS, although a “probable” case — a 64-year-old foreign male who had arrived from Hong Kong — been isolated in a Manila hospital. Today’s Web site said that Health Secretary Manuel Dayrit reported on the SARS situation to President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, who said the country would try to keep the illness out without “stigmatizing” healthy tourists from SARS-stricken countries.

*The Chinese province of Inner Mongolia has reportedly had two SARS deaths. The Deutsche Welle network says that it’s being reported in China that there are 10 cases of SARS in the regional capital, Hohhot.

*Thailand might have its 8th probable SARS case, the Bangkok Post said Saturday. It said this patient was an unidentified Taiwanese male who arrived with a small tour group on March 30. Thailand has had two deaths so far, and Deputy Public Health Permanent Secretary Dr. Thawat Suntharacharn was quoted by the Post as saying that 80 people had been put on the Sars watchlist.

*The Voice of Vietnam’s Web site said that as of Friday, 35 SARS patients had been discharged from hospitals. Another 18 remained hospitalized at Bach Mai Hospital’s Medical Institute for Tropical Diseases, of whom six were on respirators.

*The JapanToday Web site says Japan could have four “probable cases,” with no deaths as yet.

*In Indonesia, the Jakarta Post said Saturday that the number of suspected SARS cases stood at two. The first probable case was that of a 47-year-old British national of ethnic Chinese origin who had previously visited Hong Kong and Singapore. The second patient was being treated at a hospital specializing in epidemic diseases, but the individual’s personal details weren’t released.

Meanwhile, in Hamburg, Germany, a biotechnology company said it will release a new test for SARS on Monday. The company, Artus GmbH, said that it had developed a virus detection assay test, working with the Bernhard-Nocht-Institute for Tropical Medicine in Hamburg.

Based on what’s known about the genetic sequence of the virus believed to cause SARS, the institute created what Artus said was a real-time polymerase chain reaction diagnostic test, from which results can be obtained within two hours. This test will be given free to laboratories, it said.

“The real-time PCR technique improves specificity, allows interpretation of results during the test and provides data about the quantity of the viruses in the sample material.

“Classical tests like antibody assays in blood allow detection of an infection normally much later,” or 10 to 20 days after infection, Artus said.

Copyright 2003 by United Press International. All rights reserved.