Death toll from mystery illness in Toronto reached 16

The death toll from a mysterious respiratory disease in Toronto has increased to 16, making it the deadliest nursing home outbreak in at least five years.

Despite the increasing death toll, which officials said could still climb higher, Toronto's medical officer of health, Dr. David McKeown told a news conference on Wednesday the outbreak is winding down.

"This is not SARS," Dr. McKeown said. "The outbreak is confined to residents and staff and people closely associated with this one facility, so it's not a general public health risk," he said.

Dr. McKeown said the six new deaths are not new cases. He said "all of these elderly individuals had been previously identified as cases and had underlying medical conditions."

In all, 70 residents, 13 employees and five visitors have been affected, although no new cases were reported Wednesday, reports CBC News.

According to CTV, Public health officials say the cause for the outbreak at the Seven Oaks Home for the Aged in the city's east end remains unknown but that they are continuing testing. However, they maintain that the situation is under control.

"I think that if in a week we can't figure this out, it's time to get some international help," Dr. Rau said.

"What we are seeing is a pretty virulent pathogen that is causing this outbreak," said Dr. Donald Low, medical director of the public health laboratories branch in the Ministry of Health, appearing on CTV Newsnet.

Low has analyzed tissue samples from one of the victims who just died. Health officials have have ruled out influenza, avian flu, SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) and Legionnaire's disease.

"So our task right now is to find out...what the cause is," Low said. "And that's what we are doing... literally working day and night with clinical specimens to find out what is causing this."

A total of 38 people are in hospital; 34 of them are residents, two are staff, and two are visitors to Seven Oaks.


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