- The Washington Times - Saturday, May 31, 2003

TORONTO — The city braced yesterday for an rise in the number of SARS cases following the death of a 96-year-old man who unknowingly spread the virus to people around him, triggering a second wave of the disease last week in Canada’s biggest city.

The man’s case went undetected for weeks as hospitals let down their guard after an initial outbreak in March and April.

The new cluster of SARS cases last week put Toronto back on the World Health Organization’s list of areas hit by the illness.

On Friday public health officials said they were monitoring 149 persons for severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS, up from the previous day’s number of 107. They warned that the next few days were critical in containing the further spread of the disease.

“This is the weekend we will see an increase in numbers because it’s at the end of the 10-day incubation period that it generally takes for the symptoms to appear,” said Tanya Cholakov of Ontario’s health ministry.

Thirty persons have died from the virus in the Toronto area and more than 7,000 are in quarantine. Toronto is the only place outside Asia where people have died from SARS.

The virus is thought to have been brought here by a woman who returned from Hong Kong and infected relatives, hospital workers, patients and visitors.

Almost two-thirds of the world’s cases of the flu-like virus have occurred in China, which reported four new SARS deaths yesterday, raising its death toll to 332.

Encouraged by a drop in the number of new cases, Beijing is cutting the number of hospitals set aside to treat patients with the illness from 16 to seven, an official said Saturday.

The city also plans to lift an order that closed gymnasiums and sports facilities a month ago, said Cai Fuchao, a member of the Chinese capital’s party committee, though he didn’t give a date.

But Mr. Cai warned that it was too early for hard-hit Beijing to relax its vigilance against SARS, which has infected more than 5,300 on China’s mainland.

“We will by no means drop our guard,” he said at a news conference.

China still has 1,750 persons hospitalized for SARS, Mr. Cai said, including 1,377 in Beijing. But the number of new reported SARS cases in Beijing fell from 666 in the first week of May to 66 this week.

In Hong Kong, four more SARS patients have died, including a doctor, though only three new cases of the disease were reported, health officials said.

In Taiwan, nine new SARS cases were listed, but for the third consecutive day there were no new deaths, which appeared to support the official view that SARS is fading on the island.

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