US embassy cable - 05TORONTO2615

Toronto "Mystery" Flu Illness Identified as Legionnaire's Disease

Identifier: 05TORONTO2615
Wikileaks: View 05TORONTO2615 at Wikileaks.org
Origin: Consulate Toronto
Created: 2005-10-07 12:47:00
Classification: UNCLASSIFIED
Tags: AMED SOCI TBIO ECON CA CASC 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 TORONTO 002615 
 
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) 
 
E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: AMED, SOCI, TBIO, ECON, CA, CASC, KPAO, Health 
SUBJECT: Toronto "Mystery" Flu Illness Identified as 
Legionnaire's Disease 
 
Ref: (A) Toronto 0153  (B) Toronto 2602 
(C) Toronto 2614 
 
1.  On October 6 late in the afternoon Ontario public 
officials announced that the mystery illness in Toronto 
that has attracted international media attention and 
killed 16 seniors in a nursing home had just been 
identified as a particular strain of Legionnaire's 
disease that could only be detected by culture and 
serology procedures.  Forty urinary tests had shown 
negative results earlier, but tissue samples from the 
lungs of three of the deceased tested positive for 
legionella pneumophila by mid-day on Thursday, October 
6. 
 
2.  Both David McKeown, Toronto's Medical Officer of 
Health, and Donald Low, the new medical director of the 
Ontario Public Health Lab who himself collected the 
lung tissue samples for culture, assured the public in 
their interviews late October 6 that the disease was an 
environmental contamination ("an aerosolization") that 
would remain under investigation (the ventilation 
system in the nursing home has been shut down; 
antibiotics distributed), and that the general 
population was not at risk.   For the third day in a 
row there have been no new cases, though 40 people 
remain hospitalized and a few more deaths could be 
expected.   There have been only 13 cases of 
Legionnaires' disease in Ontario in the past five 
years. 
 
3.  The Premier, the Mayor of Toronto and the 
provincial health minister have also made statements to 
assure the public that the disease is not contagious 
through personal contact; however, the plane crash in 
Winnipeg carrying flu virus samples has attracted 
attention here and, with the upcoming conference in 
Ottawa on pandemics, will likely keep the public 
concern level high.   An October 7 editorial in the 
"Toronto Star," the largest newspaper in the country, 
credits public health officials and politicians for 
putting to use hard-won lessons learned from the 2003 
SARs and hopes that international media will extend 
this credit in as high a profile as it gave to the 
initial outbreak. 
 
LECROY 

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