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The Canada Report

Mysterious illness feeds fear of SARS near Vancouver

© St. Petersburg Times
published August 24, 2003

There are concerns a mysterious respiratory outbreak at a Vancouver-area nursing home that has killed six residents might be a new and milder form of SARS.

There was another death in the last week and five since last month at the Kinsmen Place Lodge in suburban Surrey.

Public health officials insist the 150 affected residents and staff do not have SARS but a virus that bears a perplexing similarity to the disease that killed 44 people in Toronto.

Most of those who have become ill have suffered mild coldlike symptoms unlike SARS - severe acute respiratory syndrome.

"We know that this could be a mutated SARS coronavirus that has lost virulence and that's the favorite hypothesis among many people," said Dr. David Patrick, director of epidemiology at the British Columbia Centre for Disease Control.

The report led the World Health Organization to send a virologist to the Canadian health lab in Winnipeg to examine the findings in more detail.

Canadian health officials said Friday that they had ruled out the SARS virus as the source of the outbreak.

Another theory by Dr. Donald Low, chief microbiologist at Toronto's Mount Sinai Hospital, is that the virus is an old but previously unidentified human coronavirus that is closely related to SARS.

Ontarians are suffering conservation fatigue after enduring days of 85 to 90 degree temperatures amid threats of power blackouts.

People were asked to reduce demand for power, especially by turning off air conditioners, to avoid blackouts while nuclear power plants are struggling to get back on line.

The plants, which supply about one-third of the province's power, were knocked out by the Aug. 14 blackout. It takes about a week to get them running again.

Premier Ernie Eves said the province was "heading in the right direction." Power was restored to most of the 11-million people in the province within one or two days. The state of emergency ended Friday.

Eves appointed former interim Hydro One chairman Glen Wright to investigate what happened when the lights went out and how Ontario's system responded.

Names in the news

- Montreal-Dorval International Airport is being renamed to honor the late Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau. The name change, to become official Sept. 9, was approved by Trudeau's two sons. Prime minister from 1968 to 1979 and again from 1980 to 1984, Trudeau died three years ago of cancer.

- The funeral was held Saturday for John Munro, a former federal cabinet minister. An elected Liberal politician for 22 years, Munro had a heart attack at his home in Hamilton, Ontario. He was 72. John C. Munro Hamilton International Airport was named in his honor in 1998.

- Dennis Flynn, who served four years as chairman of the former Metropolitan Toronto government, has died at age 79 of a heart attack. He was mayor of suburban Etobicoke for 12 years.

Facts and figures

Economists are suggesting the Bank of Canada will cut its key interest rate of 3 percent by up to 0.5 percent on Sept. 2 as inflation eased to 2.2 percent in July from 2.6 percent in June.

There's no change in the commercial bank prime lending rate of 4.75 percent.

Canada's dollar was lower at 70.85 U.S. cents while a U.S. dollar was worth $1.4114 Canadian, before bank exchange fees.

Canadian stock exchanges were higher, with the Toronto index at 7,510 points and the Canadian Venture Exchange, 1,277 points on Friday.

Lotto 6-49: (Wednesday) 12, 16, 20, 29, 36 and 47; bonus 24. (Aug. 16) 11, 15, 17, 19, 32 and 39; bonus 30.

Regional briefs

- More than 30,000 people have been forced from their homes in suburban Kelowna, British Columbia, as an aggressive forest fire moved closer this weekend. The 42,000-acre Okanagan Mountain fire jumped a fire guard outside the city. About six major forest fires continue to burn in the province.

- There was a spectacular hydrogen explosion and fire at a Petro-Canada lubricants plant in Mississauga, west of Toronto, Thursday night. No one was injured when the blast rocked the plant on the Lake Ontario shore. The cause was not known.

- Halifax will be the location for the filming of a two-hour CBS TV movie about Elizabeth Smart's nine-month kidnapping ordeal. Elizabeth, who disappeared from Salt Lake City, is to be played by Canadian Amber Marshall. The movie is expected to air in November.

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