From the GIGSE 2003 SARS Update Desk...

20 April 2003

Monday, April 21, 2003

SARS Update

The River City Group has been closely tracking the facts regarding SARS in the Toronto area and would like to share with you the results of our research. This will be updated regularly so that you can make your personal decisions regarding attendance at this event.

In terms of GIGSE 2003, we are proceeding with the event. The number of companies/organizations currently committed to sponsoring or exhibiting at GIGSE stands at 40 companies and is growing daily. We have had one cancellation from among exhibitors/sponsors which was partially due to logistical issues with booth construction.

In terms of registrations, those also are coming in daily with over 28 new registrations since last Thursday. We currently have over 400 people registered to attend and typically receive most of our registrations in the 30 days prior to the event. We have had 8 notices of people, primarily Australians, who tell us they're not coming due to their government’s advisory and have had 3 registered delegates cancel. We currently have no registrations from anyone in the affected areas of Singapore, Hong Kong, Guangdong, or Hanoi, Viet Nam.

As of April 19, the World Health Organization site says that: “In Canada, concern has centered around a cluster of 31 suspect and probable cases in members of a charismatic religious group, the health care workers who have treated them, and close family and social contacts. The outbreak is particularly disturbing because of its potential to move into the wider community. Large meetings of the religious group at two events, on 28 and 29 March, may have led to multiple additional exposures, especially among the members of this close-knit religious group.

Intense contact tracing, home quarantine, and close follow-up by health officials may work to prevent further spread of cases in the general community. The index case in this cluster has been traced to contact, in a hospital emergency room, with a subsequently fatal SARS case. The outbreak is regarded as a test case of whether rigorous contact tracing and other stringent public health measures can contain further spread even when very large numbers of persons may have been exposed.

This index case has also been linked to three of four SARS cases concentrated in the same block of a 247-unit condominium in Toronto. As the fourth case could not be linked to direct contact with a SARS patient, some speculation arose concerning possible environmental contamination within the building as the source of the fourth infection. However, all four cases occurred in early April, with 4 April being the date of onset of the fourth case. The incubation period has now passed with no further cases detected. There appears to be little risk that the case arose from an environmental source.” site

They chart the outbreak in Canada at the following link:

The US Center for Disease Control had this to say in its travel advisory as of April 14, 2003: "Because the epidemiology of SARS in Canada is significantly different with regards to community transmission, CDC is not issuing a specific travel advisory for Canada at this time." acute_resp_syn_multi.htm

The UK has taken a similar approach to the US. Their site, as of April 21, 2003, says: "Canada is a popular destination for British travelers and the vast majority of visits are trouble-free. There continue to be cases and a handful of deaths from Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, chiefly in the Toronto area. But risk to the public at large remains low. In line with the Department of Health advice, we are not advising against travel to Toronto." aid=1013618387099

However, the government of Australia has put Canada on a list of spots that they recommend not traveling to for “non-essential” travel at this point. zw-cgi/view/Advice/Canada

"Australians should be aware of the incidence of a contagious form of the respiratory illness known as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) in Canada. SARS related cases have been confirmed in Canada which have resulted in a number of deaths. (Up-to-date figures are available at

"The Commonwealth Department of Health and Ageing has advised that the risk of contracting SARS is low. The vast majority of cases have been contracted through close personal contact with a seriously ill person, almost exclusively in hospitals and between family members. There is a smaller risk of contracting SARS through other means. There have been three separate incidences of SARS being contracted in flight, all of which have been the result of close contact with a seriously ill person.

"The Canadian authorities have instituted a strict regime of disease control in relation to SARS. On 26 March, the Premier of Ontario declared SARS a provincial emergency. Two hospitals in Toronto (York Central Hospital and The Scarborough Hospital, Grace Division) have temporarily closed their emergency departments, are no longer admitting new patients and have imposed visitor restrictions. Other measures, such as restricting visitors and screening patients, visitors and others at all hospitals in Ontario, have been implemented in an effort to contain the spread of SARS.

"There have been no reported cases of Australians contracting SARS in Canada. Health Canada reports that all Canadian cases of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) have occurred in persons who have traveled to Asia or had contact with SARS cases in the household or in a health-care setting." -Australian government site

The Irish government issued a travel warning March 28, 003:

Canadian Health Screening - The Canadian government has issued health-screening procedures for those entering the country. You can find more details about these procedures at:

Other links:

  • World Health Organization
  • Health Canada
  • Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care

  • Toronto Convention Bureau

    We will continue to monitor the situation in Toronto and will let you know if there's a substantive change. Please let me know if you have additional questions about this (US telephone 1-636-946-0820) and we look forward to seeing you in May.

    Sue Schneider