Lingering SARS fears affect fest attendees

Industryites arriving at Pearson Intl. Airport for the Toronto film fest can expect a few precautionary measures in the wake of the city’s spring SARS outbreak.

Passengers on international flights enroute to Toronto receive a health alert describing the symptoms of severe acute respiratory syndrome, and are asked for contact information should someone of the flight appear to have been infected.

Upon arrival, travelers pass through a thermal scanner, which detects signs of fever.

From the fest’s perspective, SARS is history. “It’s business as usual,” says Gabrielle Free, the event’s director of communications, who notes that attendance figures are in line with or slightly ahead of last year’s.

While the pneumonialike illness that claimed 44 lives appears to have receded from this city of 2.5 million, caution remains.

A series of bulletins from the World Health Organization over the course of two outbreaks has left some confused about Toronto’s status. This is how it stands: On July 2, Toronto was given a clean bill of health. The last suspected case of SARS was isolated June 12. Eight patients remain hospitalized.

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