The United Nations health agency announced today that it was lifting its precautionary advisory against non-essential travel to Toronto, Canada, effective tomorrow, in view of positive changes there with regard to the outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).
Travel advisories by the World Health Organization (WHO) remain in effect for Beijing, Hong Kong, and Guangdong and Shanxi Provinces in China. SARS, the first major new infectious disease of the 21st century, first broke out in Guangdong last November and as of today has claimed 5,462 probable cases with 353 deaths in 27 countries.
Announcing the decision on Toronto, WHO Director-General Gro Harlem Brundtland cited three changes over the last week since the agency issued the advisory. The magnitude of probable SARS cases has decreased, 20 days have passed since the last cases of community transmission with no new confirmed exportation of cases reported, and WHO has been assured by Canadian authorities that pro-active screening measures at airports will be implemented as recommended by the agency.
There is no change in Toronto's status as an "affected area." Viet Nam, which is the first country to have contained its SARS outbreak, was removed from the list of affected areas yesterday.
China has reported by far the largest number of probable SARS cases, with 3,303 as of today. SARS has a mortality rate of about six per cent.