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Vancouver Illness Not SARS

August 23, 2003|Thomas H. Maugh II | Times Staff Writer

A disease outbreak at a British Columbia nursing home that was thought to have been caused by an unusual SARS virus was actually triggered by a common cold virus, Canadian health officials said Friday.

"This is not the SARS coronavirus, nor is the illness SARS," said Dr. David Patrick of the British Columbia Center for Disease Control.

Ninety-six residents and 51 staff members at Kinsmen Place Lodge in Surrey, a suburb of Vancouver, were struck by the illness, which had symptoms much milder than those of severe acute respiratory syndrome. A preliminary genetic analysis of a small section of the virus isolated from the victims suggested that it was closely related to the SARS virus, leading to speculation that SARS might have mutated to a less dangerous form.

But analysis of another 3% of the genome found viral sequences "that are not present in the SARS coronavirus," Patrick said. Instead, the virus appears to be a common coronavirus called OC43, and the symptoms in Surrey are consistent with those produced by OC43.

Dr. Roland Guasparini of the Fraser Health Authority said the nursing home would resume normal infection-control procedures.

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