Mystery respiratory outbreak in Toronto: 73 sick, 4 dead.
October 2, 2005 11:23 AM   Subscribe

Mystery respiratory outbreak in Toronto: 73 sick, 4 dead. Yesterday the media quickly snapped up assurances [video] that ruled out influenza or SARS. Said officials, "We can certainly reassure people that this is not SARS, um, there is no SARS in the world ... Can I give you a guarantee that it's not influenza, at this time not, in a few hours, probably ... as the day goes on the public health lab has more and more results." A day has passed with no word on these tests. Affected areas are reportedly quarantined, and some Internet communities are growing alarmed over the contradictions at yesterday's press conference.
posted by rolypolyman (24 comments total)
Where the hell is Dustin Hoffman?!
posted by secret about box at 11:27 AM on October 2, 2005

Toronto, of all places.
posted by TwelveTwo at 11:29 AM on October 2, 2005

TwelveTwo- Tortonto has a large Chinese emigrant commnuity, so it's not surprising. SARS hit Toronto very hard.
posted by bobot at 11:39 AM on October 2, 2005

I did not know this. I've been enlightened. Thank you, bobot. Alternatively, I can feign knowledge and say that my original comment was sarcastic. Hmm... I think I'll stick with thanking you for the information. Thanks bobot!
posted by TwelveTwo at 11:42 AM on October 2, 2005

I just thought you were informing us of Dustin Hoffman's wareabouts, TwelveTwo.
posted by delmoi at 12:08 PM on October 2, 2005

Isn't Toronto also a major hub for air traffic from China?
posted by StickyCarpet at 12:10 PM on October 2, 2005

I'm appalled that I haven't heard about this yet, as I live in Toronto. Goddammit bring me back my CBC!
posted by Hildegarde at 12:39 PM on October 2, 2005

"Affected areas" -- what, like entire neighborhoods?

It's entirely confined, at this point, to a nursing home. It probably has nothing to do with China, and it may not even be a serious threat to a typical adult; the four deaths are all elderly. It has not apparently spread to medical workers and there is no official quarantine.

Toronto did have some people affected by SARS, so they're jumpy.
posted by dhartung at 1:22 PM on October 2, 2005

Well, the facilities in question -- and in quarantine -- are nursing homes. Not, as "some internet communities" say, hospitals.

Although this is absolutely a situation worth monitoring, I would like to point out that the residents of these facilities would not be there if they did not have chronic health problems of one sort or another whether physical or mental. It is not a great logical leap to suspect that the average resident of these facilities is more succeptible to illness in general. It is unlikely that any of these people have recently been to China, but it is possible that they have been visited by someone who has.

So, the usual cold/flu precautions are probably a good idea, but it's not time to pull the kids from school and start telecommuting just yet.
posted by ilsa at 1:28 PM on October 2, 2005

isn't Avian also effecting China right now?
posted by RobbieFal at 1:50 PM on October 2, 2005

Yikes... looks like I got out of Toronto just in time! I managed to dodge yet another ridiculously overhyped "mystery illness".

When SARS hit Toronto, Americans were actually afraid to walk the streets here. I don't know a single local person who was even the slightest bit scared by SARS, who didn't work in a hospital.
posted by antifuse at 1:54 PM on October 2, 2005

This kind of thing is actually pretty common. If there's an outbreak of plain old influenza at a nursing home, there'll be at least a few dead. Last year, 11 people died after an outbreak at a nursing home in Cobourg, Ontario. When I read this in the Globe and Mail this morning, I thought, ho hum, this is only getting coverage because of SARS.
posted by orange swan at 2:20 PM on October 2, 2005

Countdown to CNN rebroadcasting that footage of "Torontonians" (actually Beijing residents) walking the streets in surgical masks in 5, 4, 3....
posted by Sullenshady at 3:56 PM on October 2, 2005

One of my friends signed up to do additional clerical work at a hospital during the SARS crisis. Got paid a ton of money thanks to the atmosphere of paranoia (some of the wages may have even been hazard pay, I don't remember). She is still very much among the living, and it helped pay for a good chunk of tuition (and a sweet new television) after the summer. Hurray for mysterious and mostly benign illnesses!
posted by chrominance at 4:11 PM on October 2, 2005

Elderly people with borderline or already compromised immune systems, all living in the same nursing homes get sick & a couple of them die? How could this have ever happened?!!!???

I'm appalled that I haven't heard about this yet, as I live in Toronto. Goddammit bring me back my CBC!

I'm appalled that you only go to the CBC for your news. It's been all over other media outlets.

The news that four Toronto nursing home residents have died from an unknown flu-like illness has shocked a city still shaken by the SARS outbreak

Idiotic headline from the Toronto Star. I don't know anyone who ever thinks about the SARS outbreak, nor a single sensible individual who would be shocked over the death of a nursing home patient between the months of Oct & Feb. Traditionally difficult months for the elderly living in close quarters.
posted by zarah at 4:13 PM on October 2, 2005

Well, there seems to be some disagreement about that quarantine at least.

"We get hundreds of outbreaks every year, however in this situation we do have a particularly serious outbreak," Dr. Yaffe said.

She said 15 people have been admitted to hospitals in the area, but are not being quarantined.

"There is no quarantine necessary for this," Dr. Yaffe said, and emphasized that there was no threat to the greater public.

Call it my bias, but I trust the Globe over the Sun.
posted by dreamsign at 4:17 PM on October 2, 2005

The fact that they are allowing nursing home staff to come and go to work is very reassuring to me. I doubt they would do this if they suspected SARS or avian influenza.
posted by shannymara at 5:04 PM on October 2, 2005

I remember outbreaks in nursing homes as far back as I remember any news items. Detroit used to have the occasional outbreak of legionaires disease for example always accompanies by a few elderly deaths. Tragic if you're a relative or friend but just an example of the fragility of life otherwise.
posted by substrate at 6:07 PM on October 2, 2005

SARS-like outbreak in Toronto? Wait, I think I've seen this show already.
posted by neckro23 at 8:40 PM on October 2, 2005

"SARS hit Toronto very hard."

pardon me, is it possible for SARS to hit anything hard? 774 deaths worldwide. Tripping on stairs is a bigger threat.
posted by raaka at 8:54 PM on October 2, 2005

raaka, If this is like SARS, the big threat is a WHO travel advisory.

The loss of life might not be any worse than you'd see in a serious traffic accident, but the economic shit-kicking is massive.
posted by login at 9:04 PM on October 2, 2005

Countdown to CNN rebroadcasting that footage of "Torontonians" (actually Beijing residents) walking the streets in surgical masks in 5, 4, 3....

In NE Asia, people walk the streets in surgical masks all the damn time. It's the done thing if you have a simple common cold.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 10:21 PM on October 2, 2005

Or if you have really shitty enviromental laws.
posted by TheSpook at 12:28 AM on October 3, 2005

Indeed, but I see it in smaller, cleaner cities as much as I do in the megalopoli.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 5:58 AM on October 3, 2005

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