December 17, 2007
Media Release

York Region applies important lessons learned from the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) experience

York Region Public Health continues to enhance emergency preparedness
NEWMARKET – The Regional Municipality of York Public Health branch has taken the lessons learned during the tragic outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) in 2003 to strengthen emergency preparedness practices.
The 2003 SARS outbreak in Ontario infected 375 people, including 169 health care workers, and killed 44 people.  As the second largest epicentre for SARS in North America, York Region reported 88 cases of SARS, including eight deaths.
“The impact of the SARS outbreak in York Region has been taken very seriously,” said York Region Chairman and CEO Bill Fisch.  “Staff continue to work diligently to improve our crisis response and prepare us to meet any future challenges with confidence and capability.”
Following the SARS outbreak, feedback was obtained on the impact and the perceived level of emergency preparedness in the event of another infectious disease outbreak.  Information was collected through employee surveys, panel discussions and various debriefing exercises.  All York Region Public Health staff now participate in a mandatory five-year cycle of emergency preparedness training.
“Our ongoing work at York Region shows our leadership in health emergency preparedness,” said City of Vaughan Regional Councillor Joyce Frustaglio, Chair of the Region’s Health and Emergency Medical Services Committee.  “We took charge to grow and improve our practices after SARS and we will continue to seek out and implement new strategies to protect the health and well-being of York Region residents."
Quickly bringing an outbreak under control is one of the best ways to limit its impact.  During SARS, staff were recruited from other health units and agencies to deal with additional case management, epidemiology, follow up and data analysis needs.  
“We know that quick action to control a future outbreak is one of our best defenses,” said Dr. Kurji, York Region’s Medical Officer of Health and Director of Public Health Programs.  “As a result, we have increased the capacity of staff, resources and technology to deal with a public health emergency and protect the health of York Region residents.”
Additional York Region Public Health emergency preparedness measures include:
• Hiring of additional staff to provide enhanced monitoring and reporting of health statistics and infectious diseases patterns within York Region
• Public Health staff deployment to assist with the launch of new emergency preparedness programs and initiatives, including the Infectious Diseases Surveillance Unit and the Regional Infection Control Network 
• Partnership with the Public Health Agency of Canada to participate in a pilot project monitoring
      over-the-counter selling trends of gastrointestinal and respiratory products 
• Involvement in the implementation of the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care (MOHLTC) initiative to create 14 Regional Infection Control Networks across the province 
• Implementation of the provincially-mandated Integrated Public Health Information System (iPHIS),  allowing all provincial data to be stored on a centrally shared system and providing enhanced communication between health units and the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care

For more information on this or any other health-related topic, please contact York Region
Health Connection at 1-800-361-5653.
For more information on The Regional Municipality of York and our services, please visit
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Media Contact: Jennifer Mitchell-Emmerson, Community and Health Services, York Region
 Phone: 905 830-4444 ext. 4016 or After-hours Cell 905 716-2717

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