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Toronto Clear of SARS Created Travel Advisory

Aired April 29, 2003 - 14:43   ET

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

MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Lets talk about SARS for just a moment a little more subject. It is now OK to travel to Toronto. The World Health Organization has decided to lift a travel advisory brought on by an outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome. It's highly controversial north of the border.
CNN medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen joins us.

A little bit of pressure from the Canadian Health Ministry on this issue I should say.

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Probably more than just a little, Miles. In fact Canadian health officials went Geneva to talk with the World Health Organization. That travel advisory was issued Wednesday of last week, and it said do not travel to Toronto unless it's absolutely essential. Well, today, the World Health Organization reversed that decision.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GRO HARLEM BRUNDTLAND, WHO DIRECTOR-GENERAL: In reviewing these advisories, we look at several factors, and they include, No. 1, the total magnitude of probable SARS cases in an area. Secondly, the last dates of cases of community transmission. And thirdly, the last dates of export of cases. After carefully reviewing these factors, we will maintain the existing travel advice for Hong Kong, Beijing, Guangdong and Shansi Province. We will be lifting the travel advice for Toronto, Canada, effective tomorrow.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COHEN: Now, Brundland, mentioned that there have been no confirmed exports of SARS from Canada in the past week. What she meant no confirmed cases where someone left Toronto went back to their home country and was diagnosed with SARS. There is however a possible SARS case, a high school student from New York, left Toronto and three days ago and came down with the SARS. She is considered a possible case.

We have with us the Ontario provincial health minister, Tony Clement who had traveled to Geneva. You must be very pleased about this new development.

TONY CLEMENT, ONTARIO HEALTH MINISTER: We are very pleased. And certainly we put forward the most up to date scientific information for the World Health Organization, which indicates no community spread in Toronto, no safety issues in the community for SARS in Toronto. And we're gratified that the World Health Organization listened.

COHEN: Mr. Clement, would you say that SARS is under control in Toronto?

CLEMENT: I would say this, that certainly when you look at the fact that there hasn't been any new cases from non-health care workers for the last three weeks, when you look at the fact that our hospitals seem to be battling SARS, and they are clean of SARS, that we have put in the right procedures and the right protocols in place to ensure that this is contained and that we start to win the battle. And that's gratifying to know that, but you always have to be vigilant with this disease. And we are going to continue to be vigilant.

COHEN: Now, there are several categories of people in Toronto who have come down with SARS. First of all, of course, travelers, people who went to Asia and came back to Toronto and who were diagnosed with SARS.

What other categories of people have come down with SARS in Toronto?

CLEMENT: Well, mostly, they are either cases that had contact with the -- what is called the origin index case -- that is to say the son of the original traveler or they are family members of those individuals. So it might have been patients or health care workers or family who were around a very infectious individual right at the get- go. And we've spending the last five weeks containing that original outbreak. And certainly we feel very satisfied now that we have done our jobs.

COHEN: Now, another Canadian Health official told us that about 12 people who told -- who were quarantined or isolated in Canada, told not to leave their homes violated those orders and had to have stern warnings. How much damage did it do when those people who might have been infectious left their homes when they weren't supposed to.

CLEMENT: That's why we have provisions under our health care protection act, that we can slap what's called a section 22 order where we can basically confine them either to their home under guard or can confine them in a hospital setting. So we've used that several times as you mentioned. And we believe that helped get the message out how serious we were to the community, that if you are under quarantine, you've got to stay under quarantine. And indeed, the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta probably just down the street from you indicated that our infection control and quarantine procedures are exemplary for the world.

COHEN: Tony Clement, Ontario Provincial health minister, thank you for joining us. I wanted to end with some statistics here.

In Canada, there are 142 probable cases of SARS. There have been 21 deaths, 37 people remain hospitalized with SARS -- Miles.

O'BRIEN: Thanks, Elizabeth. Elizabeth Cohen, right here in the news room. Appreciate it.

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