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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

Contracting SARS in Toronto Not Risky, Says Canadian Spokesperson

Aired April 23, 2003 - 15:02   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: We're going to turn to a news conference in Toronto -- Centers for Disease Control. U.S. officials are talking to reporters in Toronto.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... I also have to express my condolences to the families and friends of the 15th and 16th individuals who passed away since yesterday afternoon's press conference -- one of which was announced yesterday evening and one unfortunate death that was not unexpected. And if you recollect what I told you yesterday, that happened this morning.

Our team is very disappointed with the World Health Organization's warning in the form of a travel advisory to Toronto. We believe this decision was made without consulting the province. We believe it's an overreaction.

Whilst the BLD (ph) cluster was drawn to our attention in April and whilst we went back and followed up every contact and whilst I will remind people that last night was 10 full days -- four individuals who were identified for quarantine -- and whilst public health units in six jurisdictions followed all those contacts, save for the early part of the quarantine period when there was one suspect case, none of them showed up as probable or suspect.

Suffice to say, four individuals had a mild temperature yesterday and the quarantine for them has been extended by a few days whilst they medically sort it out in terms of "Are they SARS or is it just some other logical, rational explanation for their temperature?"

I will note from information that we have that there is no ongoing transmission in Montreal as a result of that one case having been symptomatic and having attended the seminar in Montreal from this cluster. I would also like to point out there were two specific circumstances where we were aware of contacts being in the U.S., and for your benefit, I will recount what we specifically did.

In the case of one individual, we dispatched an aircraft and brought that individual home under quarantine. Because this person was not a case, we took our public health duties and responsibilities seriously. I will also remind you that there were several couples in Rochester spending a weekend. We're working with our colleagues. We brought them back into Ontario in isolation and ensured that nobody was unnecessarily exposed.

To that extent, you know, I need to stress Toronto continues to be a safe place. Anyone who is traveling to Toronto, either for business or for pleasure, should be reassured that it is safe to do so. And as some of you are aware, I don't live in the city proper, but I commute in every day with pleasure and with no fear to continue to do the job that I stayfully committed to.

Keep in mind there are five million people in the Greater Toronto area, and the risk continues to be low except in those specific circumstances where they may have been in close direct contact with a known case of SARS.

And we've had a tremendous battle, particularly in our healthcare institutions. We've spoken about this in the last few days. I have my colleague from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, who I'm sure will do some talking to kind of give you some early insight, and I want to stress that we have extraordinary, extreme precautionary measures in place in our healthcare institutions with the view of protecting our workers, with the view of ensuring that the disease doesn't spread in our healthcare institutions.

I'd like to remind people of the simple isolation message because there are still some people in isolation as a result of certain exposures that we have announced very specifically -- the funeral home, very specifically the funeral mosque last week on Friday and Saturday. And just to remind everybody, it's the Ward Domiani (ph) location in Woodbridge, which is of relevance for Friday the 19th of April in the evening, for Saturday morning, and then for the funeral mass at St. David's Church in Maple on Major Mckenzie (ph) Drive.

I am delighted that my colleague, Dr. Paul Gully, from the federal department is here. We're going to be working very closely with him and his federal government colleagues to ensure that WHO gets their facts straight as it pertains to the situation in Toronto. And I understand that the federal government is taking up this matter seriously.

I'll now turn it over to Dr. (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you. Good afternoon.

WOODRUFF: We are listening to a news reference in Toronto, Canada. Canadian health officials talking about precautions they are taking after one more death reported in Canada.

As you could tell, American officials from the Centers for Disease Control are joining them now to try to get to the bottom of why health workers in Toronto continue to come down with SARS despite a number of precautions that they had taken.

We're going to be monitoring that news conference, and we'll bring you any news that does come out of it.

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