|Wikileaks:||View 05TORONTO2614 at Wikileaks.org|
|Classification:||UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY|
|Tags:||AMED SOCI TBIO ECON CASC CA KPAO Health|
|Redacted:||This cable was not redacted by Wikileaks.|
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 TORONTO 002614 SIPDIS STATE FOR WHA/CAN, CA/OCS, M/MED, and M/DASHO HHS FOR OFFICE OF THE SECRETARY, OFFICE OF INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS (STEIGER), CDC FOR GLOBAL HEALTH OFFICE (COX) SENSITIVE E.O. 12958: N/A TAGS: AMED, SOCI, TBIO, ECON, CASC, CA, KPAO, Health SUBJECT: 16 Dead in Toronto "Mystery" Flu Illness Ref: (A) Toronto 0153 (B) Toronto 2602 Sensitive But Unclassified - Please protect accordingly. 1. (SBU) SUMMARY: On October 6, the reported death count in a "mystery" flu-like virus outbreak in a Toronto-area nursing home climbed to 16, making it the city's worst respiratory outbreak since SARS killed 44 Canadians in the spring of 2003. Public health officials emphasize that they have ruled out SARS, avian flu, and influenza as possible causes. They also claim that the outbreak has been contained among residents, staff, and visitors of the nursing home, with no reported cases outside of those groups and no new cases in almost 48 hours. However, medical health professionals in Toronto say the City is not providing adequate information to medical professionals. The Toronto economy lost C$1 billion during the 2003 SARS outbreak, creating the current impression of a possible conflict of interest when public officials are confidently proclaiming that the outbreak has been contained before they can exactly identify the virus. END SUMMARY. Death Toll Rises to Sixteen --------------------------- 2. (U) On October 6, Torontonians woke up to the grim news that 16 residents of a nursing house in the Toronto suburb of Scarborough had died from an unexplained respiratory illness, making this outbreak the worst since SARS killed 44 people in the spring of 2003. Six nursing home residents died on October 5 -- three women (aged 85, 92, and 96) and three men (aged 75, 84, and 89). Since the illness was discovered on September 25, five visitors, 13 employees, and 70 residents have been affected. Official Line Calms the Nerves ------------------------------ 3. (U) Toronto's Chief Medical officers continue to emphasize that the disease is in several critical respects different from SARS and that it has likely been contained. In their words, the outbreak does not pose a public health risk. Their reasoning is based on the following facts: --all 16 fatalities were elderly men and women with additional medical conditions that made them particularly susceptible to any disease (NOTE: a large proportion of SARS cases was among much younger health care professionals. END NOTE); --all reported cases are confined to residents, staff and visitors of the nursing home, all have been accounted for and, if necessary, quarantined in Toronto area hospitals; --Toronto's statistics demonstrate that there are 200 respiratory outbreaks in long-term care facilities every year. Per outbreak, there was one fatality on average, and the highest previous number of deaths was 15; --there have been no new cases for almost 48 hours and the number of new cases per day has declined over the last seven days. These numbers indicate that the disease has been contained. While more deaths among those already infected is possible, all eyes will be on whether the total number of infections remains stable; --Toronto area medical labs have been able to determine that the disease is a febrile (characterized by a fever) respiratory virus that is not/not SARS, avian flu, or influenza; --the building that houses the nursing home also accommodates a day care center for children, which remains open for parents to drop off their children. No virus cases have been reported at the childcare center. Medical Professional: "Anything is Possible" -------------------------------------------- 4. (SBU) Dr. Howard Seiden, the Consulate's Medical Advisor, expressed frustration that the City of Toronto has not been more forthcoming with information about the virus. Medical professionals know no more than what is in the newspapers and they get the info no earlier. He argued that 16 deaths with no explanation raises questions. His bottom line: If you don't know what you are dealing with, anything is possible. He expressed concern that public health officials are not reacting as conservatively as they should while important questions about the virus remain unanswered. 5. (U) Media reports note that Toronto lost C$1 billion in the 2003 SARS outbreak, so city and provincial officials have a very material interest in treading as softly as possible. These reports quote the previous Tourism Minister, who advised the current government to closely monitor its tone to avoid economic losses. Comment: A Fine Balancing Act ----------------------------- 6. (SBU) Clearly, Ontario is walking a fine line in trying to avoid an overreaction that could have severe economic consequences and prompt unnecessary public alarm, while still taking every measure to contain the disease. Understandably, Ontario's Health Minister, George Smitherman, emphasizes that there is "no evidence" that the disease has spread outside the nursing home. At the same time, given the expectation of worldwide pandemic, it is unsurprising that medical professionals are frustrated that they are not getting more scientifically based information that would enable them to quickly diagnose possibly linked cases. This outbreak, which likely is contained, should be taken as opportunity to rehearse with the medical community for the real thing (NOTE: Ref (A) contains ConGen Toronto's "Lessons Learned" from the 2003 Toronto SARS outbreak. END NOTE). LECROY
Latest source of this page is cablebrowser-2, released 2011-10-04