|By Sydney White|
One admirable Canadian trait, along with others that do not make for dramatic news, is that we don't panic easily. We did not join the invasion for "weapons of mass destruction"; and we did not join the Americans in their lemming-like rush to barricade their homes with miles of duct tape. In fact, when the SARS epidemic hit its peak in May with 326 dead worldwide, (involving only those who were immune-compromised or with pre-existing health conditions), we had no town criers calling "bring out your dead".1
Doctors do not read the Journal of Medical Virology, but Beijing zoo-keepers do; they fed their animals huge amounts of vitamins to ensure they wouldn't catch SARS . 2
In fact, Nobel laureate and virus expert, David Baltimore, and Doctors Without Borders stated that over the last six months, a North American had a 10 thousand times greater chance of dying from ordinary flu than from SARS. Every day, 55 people die of regular flu.
So the question is: "Why was Toronto hit so hard in comparison with other cities, and why were its health care workers the prime targets?"
According to experienced nurses, changes and cuts made by former Ontario Premier Mike Harris were coming home to roost. Hospital cleaning staff who once considered themselves an important part of the health care system, and were indeed praised for their good work, are no longer with us. Instead, a retired nurse reports, hospitals are now at the mercy of untrained private sector cleaners who feel no connection, nor realization that their work is the foundation of hospital care and recovery. Nurses complained about the slipshod results, but nothing was done to bring the quality of cleaning up to its pre-Harris level.
Secondly, the Harris government, to "save taxpayer money", announced that nurses were "as obsolete as hula hoops" and fired them at will. As planned by this myopic regime, when the nurses returned to the fold, it was as part-timers who were not eligible for benefits. This saved a lot of taxpayer money that some believe may have been spent on exotic vacations for politicians.
Meanwhile, to keep the nurses in their cheaper, part-time status, they are shunted from one hospital to another, sometimes working in three or four hospitals at the same time. This leaves them open to contagion themselves and also makes them unwitting carriers of incipient viruses to other hospitals. Not only did the Harris government fire nurses to the point of shortage, it also cut back severely on infectious disease nurses. There was no funding for this important health care sector.
Therefore, when this "epidemic" that didn't have to be came along, no one knew how to react. The health care team had been decimated just as neatly as Maurice Strong decimated the technology team in Hydro.
Will more privatization enter our health care system, because it "couldn't cope with SARS"? Wait for it.
The other cause of the "second outbreak cluster" in Toronto, after SARS had apparently been vanquished, was simply that the definition of SARS was changed! It was broadened to include anyone who had a temperature and respiratory problems. Yes, it is a good thing to be inclusive if you are not sure. But more than half of these people were sent home as SARS-free. The "new outbreak" was announced with all the fanfare possible, while the end result was a back number. The media indeed was complicit in promoting the big scare, and Toronto, running the economic engine that is Ontario, was regarded once more as "Typhoid Mary". CNN showed a picture of "Toronto" during the so-called epidemic, with everyone wearing masks. But all the street and shop signs were in Chinese!
At the same time, ironically, our dollar was rising in leaps and bounds. The NAFTA subscribers were upset that our exports would go down because they were not in the bargain basement any more; but those of us who fought the NAFTA scam were again in the no-panic mode. Toronto was under siege economically, but we would pop to the surface. Torontonians and other Canadians "kept on truckin" as tourists in their own country. Everyone was wearing their "I Am Canadian" T-shirt and cheering.
Suddenly, SARS was joined by a lone mad cow, and the West Nile mosquito was proclaimed to the tune of DEET. Time to get our second wind. What was going on? The three witches in Macbeth couldn't have cooked up a better pot of double, double, toil and trouble. Chicken Littles in the corporate community wailed that the economy was failing; that health care was failing. They had already made a pilgrimage to Washington, begging bowls in hand, to apologise to the World Terror Squad, for Canada's snubbing the war. I wonder if the United States demanded that the Canadian pilgrims back them in their legal action against Europe for not accepting their genetic foods? Keep on the "qui vive" for that penitent deal.
Underneath the crashing waves of media turmoil, in the deeper regions of thought, Dr. Frank Plummer of Canada's National Microbiology Laboratory, was questioning the World Health Organization as to the cause of SARS. The corona virus, named as the culprit, was only found in 40 per cent of the SARS patients. Corona viruses usually mutate within hours; but, strangely, this one hadn't changed in seven weeks. Really "weird", said Dr. Plummer, is that SARS samples from all over the world were genetically identical, a "unique finding in a virus which normally adapts rapidly to local conditions and ought to be different in every sample."
Those who recovered sometimes became ill again, yet same-strain corona virus infections were totally unknown, until now". In fact, the New Scientist declared last April 26, that "This virus is a hybrid: one side is like a virus that causes respiratory disease; the other looks like one that causes hepatitis and pneumonia ...Nature does not go in for genetic recombinant technology."
The conclusion was that 60 per cent of the cases of SARS could be regular viral pneumonia.
As for the 40 per cent of actual SARS cases, the international journal Virology speculated that they could be the result of an experiment gone wrong.3
Professor Cummins of the University of Western Ontario said that the large body of reports on the genetic manipulation of corona viruses is ignored. Apparently the biotech corporations Prodigene and Monsanto have used corona viruses to make an oral livestock vaccine that projects profits of US$140 billion by 2020. It is common knowledge in the field that this industry is "battling for survival and biotech stocks have fallen 50 per cent in two years because of worldwide rejection of GMO foods." The biotech companies are pinning their hopes on these vaccines.4
To ensure the billions expected in 2020, vaccine experiments have been progressing -- in China. Biotech corporations were granted permission to set up their labs on Chinese soil, and Guangdong province became the epicenter of classic SARS, spreading across the world.