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by Fintan Dunne,, 2nd May, 2003

"While the lab initially found evidence of the coronavirus in 80% of specimens from probable cases at the start of the outbreak in Canada, it recently has not discovered it in any of the samples, he said. " National Post 1st May, 2003
Going.. going... gone! Canada's SARS epidemic is over. Or maybe not. It all depends on which version of WHO pronouncements on SARS you care to rely upon.

Either way, Dr. Frank Plummer just told the Health Canada SARS summit in Toronto that in recent days his microbiology lab has found no corona virus at all in tested samples from suspect and probable SARS cases.

Over the weeks of testing, the percentage of Canadian SARS cases with the corona virus has declined from 80% to 60%, to 50%, to 40%, to 30% and now to zero. That could be because many people have been misclassified as SARS patients, there is a problem with taking the samples, or the virus has "gone away," the lab director said.

And just to confuse matters, before the virus disappeared altogether, the tests found the coronavirus strain in 14% of people who were not either suspect or probable SARS cases.

So some people have had SARS symptoms but no corona virus. Others have corona virus but no symptoms. Go figure!

Previously, Dr. Plummer indicated that a third group which had no contact with SARS affected areas -surprisingly had the virus. And all the while we are working according to the WHO definitive statement that corona virus is unquestionably the cause of SARS.

How does Dr. Plummer feel about all this? "It is a concern," he said yesterday in comments. "It's puzzling," he said last week.

It's worse than that, it's a sick joke. You won't believe this. While corona virus has disappeared in Canada but they still have SARS, in India, SARS has just disappeared but they still have corona virus.


Last week, India was coping with its first SARS cases, when up to nine people tested positive for corona virus. The BBC described the subsequent haphazard responses to the crisis as farcical.

Then two days the Associated Press reported that the number of SARS cases had doubled to 19 when nine staff members of a hospital that treated an infected family came down with the flu-like disease and another man tested positive after visiting Singapore. India was reeling. But that was two days ago. A long time in SARS geo-politics.

Because yesterday the World Health Organisation and the Indian Central Government declared that India had no SARS cases, as not a single person in the country fitted the case definition formulated by the WHO.

The Union Health Minister, Sushma Swaraj, and the WHO's representative in India, S.J. Habayeb, said that a person could be a SARS case if all the three conditions were met: should have a fever more than 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit, should have difficulty breathing or other respiratory problem, and should either have traveled to a SARS-affected country or should have been in contact with a known SARS patient.

In India, only one person in Goa had satisfied all the three conditions and he had been discharged from hospital. As a result, the WHO has removed India from the list of countries reporting SARS cases, they said.

The Asian Age reports the situation more revealingly: "All the Indian cases which tested positive in the laboratory tests do not have symptoms befitting SARS clinical definition. As diagnostic kits are not foolproof, lab tests are supportive with symptoms being the key deciding factors, WHO said."

Are you are getting the implications of all that? Forget the tests, the WHO are saying. Only the symptoms matter. Fine. So let's see how the SARS situation is developing in the USA.

Yesterday, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) revised the interim surveillance case definition for SARS. The criteria have been updated to include laboratory test results for evidence of infection with corona virus.

CDC Director Julie Gerberding told a Senate committee yesterday that the CDC will send SARS test kits to state health departments by the end of this week. The same type of tests which form the basis of crime scene forensic science and paternity suits. These are the tests which the WHO has determined are useless in terms of the Indian SARS situation.


In Canada, they have no virus but they have SARS. In India they have virus but no SARS. In the USA they don't truly know whether they have SARS unless they know if they have virus.

And, um... some people in Canada have the virus but no SARS. Others have SARS but no virus. More have no symptoms, but have virus. And as 8,000 pneumonia deaths annually attest, yet more have SARS-like symptoms --but they just have old-fashioned pneumonia.

Many cases of pneumonia were atypical long before the supposed SARS came along. Ask any doctor. That's why the term exists in medicine. So what's new? Corona virus, supposedly.

In an article for the BBC yesterday, headlined "Sars circus comes to Toronto," BBC science correspondent, Richard Black explained that diseases aren't conveniently measurable.

"They're messy and difficult, " he wrote.

Which explains why the World Health Organisation is dumping the prudent "can't be too careful with a new killer pandemic" approach, as it rescinds the Toronto travel advisory, and abandons the Indian nation to the tender mercies of what may be SARS --or may not be.

The WHO is getting out of the SARS business.

Corona virus was the glue which held SARS together. The glue is coming apart. The WHO is backpedalling fast, before everybody realizes SARS is not a valid disease classification. As we have been saying from the start.

The WHO spends two thirds of it's budget on administration. That pays for a lot of expense accounts. Time to get back to essentials.

It's called damage limitation.

  Saint Francis of Toronto
  Saving us all from WHO knows what.

"What I can conclude is that we have a new corona
virus epidemic that's highly associated with SARS....
whether it's the entire cause of SARS or part
of the story ... I'm not sure,"

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Corona Virus May have "Gone Away" National Post
SARS Toronto Conference Report Doctors Guide
SARS toll rises Globe & Mail

Sars Epidemic Grows More Puzzling USA Today
Scientists grapple with origins of SARS AFP
Expert: SARS infections present puzzling picture Dem & Chron

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