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SARS Cases Fall in China, Rise in Canada

WHO 'Cautiously Optimistic' China SARS Outbreak Under Control

WebMD Health News

May 30, 2003 -- The SARS outbreak in China that seemed to be raging out of control less than two weeks ago now appears to be tapering off while a new cluster of cases has emerged in Toronto, Canada.

The number of new SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) cases in China averaged around 150 per day in mid-May, but in recent days that number has dropped to the single digits with only three new cases reported yesterday and seven today. The three new cases reported yesterday previously had been classified as suspected cases and were already in the hospital. A total of 5,325 SARS cases and 327 deaths have been reported in mainland China since the SARS outbreak began in the Guangdong province in November.

Officials at the World Health Organization say they are "cautiously optimistic that outbreaks in mainland China are being brought under control in provinces with good surveillance and reporting systems and good infection control in hospitals."

As an additional precaution, Chinese health officials have discontinued the use of air conditioning in public places to prevent the spread of SARS -- even though the WHO still has no proof that SARS can be transmitted though the air or that air conditioning systems may play a role in the spread of SARS.

WHO and CDC officials say all evidence suggests that SARS is primarily spread through close, person-to-person contact with infected droplets released by coughing or sneezing.

New Cases in Canada

Meanwhile, Canadian officials are currently investigating a new cluster of SARS cases that began emerging a week ago. Eight new probable SARS cases in Canada were reported to the WHO today, bringing the country's total number of cases to 159 and 28 deaths.

Ontario's Commissioner of Public Health says a link has been established between the new SARS outbreak and the original cluster of cases. An individual from the current cluster apparently had contact with the original group, which would have provided a means a transmission.

Canadian officials say that link is important because it shows there is no evidence of widespread SARS in Canada. On May 26, the WHO added Toronto to its list of countries where SARS is being transmitted locally, but it has not recommended any travel advisories for the region.

Canadian officials protested a previous travel advisory issued by the WHO on April 23 that recommended against travel to Toronto. Those travel restrictions were lifted on April 29.

The SARS outbreak has remained relatively stable and contained in the U.S. The CDC is currently investigating 66 probable SARS cases and 297 suspected cases. Of the 66 probable SARS cases, 64 are among people who traveled to an area with local SARS transmission and the remaining two include a household contact of an infected SARS patient and a healthcare worker who cared for a SARS patient.

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