| WHO Removes Toronto From SARS List
GENEVA - The World Health Organization
removed Toronto from its list of SARS-infected areas Wednesday,
saying Canada's largest city had contained the virus.
The decision means only Taiwan
remains on the once-lengthy list of countries reporting transmissions
in the last 20 days. It, too, will likely be removed Saturday
if it has no new cases.
"This is a great achievement for
public health in what we hope is the final phase of the global
emergency," said David Heymann, WHO's head of communicable diseases.
"Toronto faced an especially challenging outbreak."
Toronto Mayor Mel Lastman called
the news "wonderful" and said health officials would remain vigilant
to prevent a recurrence of SARS in the city of 3 million.
"I know we're going to be very
careful and do things right," he said by telephone from Italy.
Toronto had the largest SARS outbreak
outside of Asia, with 39 deaths and almost 250 cases. More than
27,000 people in and around the city were forced into quarantine
during the two outbreaks one in March and April, the second
in May and June.
Although there have been no recent
new cases, a number of people remain critically ill and the death
toll could rise. The latest death Sunday was a nurse the
first Canadian health care worker to die from SARS, or severe
acute respiratory syndrome.
The illness has devastated the
crucial tourism industry in Toronto and southern Ontario, with
hotels, airlines and restaurants reporting decreased business
in what is usually the high summer season.
Lastman has long insisted Toronto
was safe for visitors despite the SARS outbreak, noting that transmission
of the illness has occurred almost exclusively in hospitals.
"We don't have people wearing masks.
You only see people wearing masks on CNN," he said Wednesday.
"You cannot catch SARS on the streets of Toronto."
Ontario and city officials have
launched advertising campaigns to lure back visitors, and are
planning a huge outdoor concert on July 30 featuring the Rolling
Stones and other groups to revitalize Toronto's image as a tourism
Canada was one of the first places
affected by SARS, which is believed to have started in southern
China and spread to other places through air travel.
The WHO in April warned travelers
against all but essential travel to Toronto. It lifted the warning
a week later, but a second outbreak of the virus in May prolonged
the harm to regional tourism.
The WHO's announcement is a timely
boost for officials from the Canadian city of Vancouver who are
bidding for the right to host the 2010 Winter Olympic Games. The
decision from the International Olympic Committee, meeting in
Prague, is expected later Wednesday.
Reference Source 102