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  • Volume Eight, Number Five: July 2003

    Kinsmen Illness not SARS, But Relative, says CDC

    The disease that infected several residents at the Kinsmen Place Lodge in Surrey is not the SARS corona virus, but a distant cousin.

    “We have clearly found large sequences of the virus that are not present in the SARS corona virus,” said Dr. David Patrick, director of epidemiology at BCCDC. “The epidemiology and clinical evidence has told us all along this illness we were dealing with was not Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, and now our laboratory findings corroborate this.”

    Further genome sequencing of the virus identified in the outbreak points to a known family of human corona viruses. The symptoms caused by this family of viruses are consistent with those suffered by the residents and staff at Kinsmen Place Lodge, Patrick said.

     “Our public health response was necessarily cautious until we figured out what agent we were dealing with,“ said Dr. Perry Kendall, provincial health officer for British Columbia. “Our ability to respond quickly and effectively has really shown the benefit of working collaboratively at all levels and the value of having laboratory and research capacity within our public health network.”

    The initial suspicion of the outbreak actually being the SARS virus prompted an immediate quarantine at both the Kinsmen Lodge and Surrey Memorial Hospital, where several Kinsmen residents had been treated.

    Hospital Employees Union rep Mike Old said staff at both the lodge and the hospital responded rapidly in implementing infection controls for patients and relatives, as well as for themselves.

    “It (was) pretty big scare for us,” he said. “Our members and the nurses have been at primary risk since we are directly in contact with people infected with the virus. Several health care givers in Toronto have died because of SARS.”

    Roland Guasparini, chief medical health officer for Fraser Health Authority, agrees that the on heightened infection control precautions were not an overreaction, and he praised the staff at both facilities. But he adds there is a real sense of relief, despite the illnesses, that the outbreak was not SARS

    “Given this new information, in consultation with the provincial health officer and BCCDC we have decided to downgrade our precautions to normal infection control protocol for respiratory illness at long-term care facilities,” Guasparini said. “Staff remaining in quarantine will be released and able to resume normal duties, and limited visiting will be allowed again at Kinsmen Place Lodge. I am particularly grateful for the residents, their families and staff who have been so cooperative in dealing with this difficult situation.”

    Since the outbreak began in early July, 96 residents and 51 staff have suffered mostly mild cold-like symptoms.

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