Canada's death toll from SARS rose to 24 while the number of remaining cases of the pneumonia-like illness in the country continued dropping, authorities said Monday.
Health officials reported a 67-year-old woman died Sunday of severe acute respiratory syndrome. It was the first fatality since April 30, and officials warned that two of the other 19 SARS patients still in hospital were struggling to survive.
Most of the more than 140 Canadian cases and all 24 deaths have been in the Toronto area, epicenter of the largest SARS outbreak outside of Asia.
The World Health Organization (WHO) last month warned against travel to Toronto because of SARS, listing it with hot spots such as Hong Kong, Beijing and other areas of China.
A week later, it removed the city from the list after Canadian health officials complained the designation was unwarranted and the government agreed to closer monitoring of air travelers for SARS symptoms.
John Letherby, a spokesman for the Ontario Health Ministry, said the woman who died Sunday was among three SARS patients who had been listed as critical or deteriorating for a few weeks. The number of active cases was 19, down from 31 on May 3, out of the more than 140 reported.
News of the latest SARS death came a day after Ontario health officials disputed a report that a man listed as a possible SARS case in Finland may have contracted the illness while he was in Toronto.
The University of Turku Central Hospital said that a test administered Thursday to identify the man's respiratory illness came back positive for the coronavirus suspected in SARS.
An initial test that was taken a week earlier was negative, and results of a third test were expected within two weeks.