The SARS outbreak in Toronto was fueled primarily by exposure at hospitals, and the virus spread among patients and healthcare workers before the medical community had significant awareness of it, according to a report released today on the Journal of the American Medical Association's Web site. The first Canadian cases of severe acute respiratory syndrome involved a Toronto family just back from a trip to China. One family member became ill and died after returning to Toronto, and another was admitted to the local community hospital that became the epicenter of the Toronto outbreak, the report said. The virus spread to other Toronto hospitals when patients were transferred between institutions. The report was based on data from 144 patients treated for SARS from March 7 to April 10. Eight of the patients died. The average age of the patients was 45; 61% were female, 51% were healthcare workers and 77% were exposed to SARS in the hospital setting. Read the report.
There have been 6,521 cases of SARS reported by 30 countries, with 461 deaths, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Julie Gerberding said in the agency's weekly update on the virus. In the U.S., there are 65 probable cases, 255 suspect cases and no deaths, Gerberding said. "We've been able to contain this problem in many parts of the world, but the fact that there continues to be transmission in China, Taiwan and Hong Kong is sobering," she said. "Tens of thousands of people are undergoing quarantine in those areas." -- by Julie Piotrowski