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Mystery Illness Kills Four in Toronto

Recombinomics Commentary

October 1, 2005

Four people are dead and dozens of residents of an east end nursing home in Toronto have been taken to hospital after an outbreak of a mystery respiratory illness.

Toronto Public Health experts told reporters Saturday that 68 residents and five employees at Seven Oaks home for the aged in the city's east end have come down with the illnesses

Dr. Barbara Yaffe said 15 of them were admitted to hospital -- four died yesterday.

Three of the victims died at the home, with the fourth dying in hospital.

All of the patients had pre-existing medical conditions and two were in their mid-90s. The other two victims were in their late 70s and 50s.

At this point, staff and experts haven't found the source of the "typical respiratory illness," but stress that it has so far not been detected outside the facility.

"We know from testing that it's not influenza, not SARS, not avian influenza," said infectious disease specialist Dr. Alison McGeer.

The above comments are cause for concern.  Although the fatalities were elderly, the infection of five employees suggests the etiological agent is fairly infectious. 

The illnesses began on September 25, so the spread has been rapid.

Details on the exclusion test would be useful.

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