Int'l SARS Conference Wraps Up

Students, wearing masks to protect against the SARS virus, hold a placard bearing the words "War has caused Capitalism" during the May Day protest in Kuala Lumpur, Thursday, May 1, 2003. About 200 Malaysian workers gathered for the protest in the Independent Square, as they got permission from the government this year.
Delegates to an international conference on SARS agree that Canada is making the right moves to contain its outbreak.

The World Health Organization's chief of communicable diseases, David Heymann, says Canada "should have no further setbacks." But he says any problems could come from inattention to detail by health care workers.

Canada has reported another probable case in Toronto. CBS News Radio reports the victim is a health care worker who was exposed to SARS by a patient. Heymann said this would not indicate a SARS spread in the general community.

Since SARS appeared in Canada in early March, officials have reported more than 140 probable cases, mostly in the Toronto area. All of the 23 deaths in Canada were in that area.

And, two nearly identical sequences of the SARS virus genetic structure have been reviewed and authenticated by American and Canadian experts.

The publication of the virus genome, which is being rushed into print by Science journal, should help researchers find drugs to treat the deadly respiratory illness and to develop a vaccine to prevent the infection, experts said.

The sequences were posted on the Internet on April 15 but are only now being peer-reviewed, a scientific step that lends credence to the accuracy of the work.

The sequences were mapped on a crash basis by the two teams of researchers in an effort to distribute the data to other scientists and to drug companies as soon as possible, said Dr. Mark Pallansch of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Worldwide, there have been more than 5,400 cases of the highly contagious respiratory disease, with at least 375 deaths.

Other key developments Thursday concerning severe acute respiratory syndrome:

  • In China, millions stayed home for the May Day holiday as officials cut short a weeklong vacation in a bid to curb the spread of the disease. The death toll in China rose to 170.
  • Nervous villagers around China's capital blocked roads with dirt and stones to keep out people with SARS, as authorities dressed in white anti-infection suits began moving the first patients to a new 1,000-bed SARS hospital north of Beijing.
  • In Hong Kong, five more deaths lifted the death toll to 162, but there were only 11 new cases reported, the lowest figure since officials began releasing daily statistics in March. A secondary school with about 1,300 students was ordered closed through May 8 as a precaution after a pupil with SARS symptoms was hospitalized, health officials said.
  • Compute - one of the world's major computer exhibitions planned from June 2-6 in Taiwan - was canceled, but the show could be rescheduled later this year.
  • In India, a World Health Organization representative disputed government officials, saying there were no confirmed cases in the country because lab tests conducted there were unreliable. The government has reported 19 cases, and 200 people have been quarantined.
  • In Singapore, authorities ordered quarantined more than 200 people who arrived on three international flights that carried passengers later diagnosed with SARS symptoms. But at least 59 others have left the country, the health ministry said.
  • The global death toll from SARS rose to 394, with at least 5,400 cases reported in more than 20 countries.