Six more die from mysterious outbreak at Toronto

A deadly outbreak of a respiratory illness at a Toronto nursing home has claimed six more lives, raising the death toll to 16, health officials said Wednesday.

The bug behind the outbreak at the Seven Oaks Home for the Aged remains unknown, although officials insisted the situation was under control.

Thirty-eight people remained hospitalized with the illness, and officials fear many of them are too frail to fully recover. Another 88 residents, employees and visitors have been affected.

Ontario Health Minister George Smitherman said there was no evidence to suggest the outbreak had spread beyond the Seven Oaks home, but he noted that respiratory illnesses are common among vulnerable groups such as the elderly.

Smitherman was quick to note that lessons had been learned in terms of quick coordination among health officials since the spring of 2003, when SARS - severe acute respiratory syndrome - claimed 44 lives in Toronto. More than 8,000 people worldwide contracted the illness and 774 people died.

He said the outbreak was a grim but timely reminder that Ontario residents should get their free flu shots this year. People should also remember that a simple act like proper handwashing can also prevent the spread of illnesses, Smitherman said, AP reports.

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