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Tests show no disease on quarantined train

/ Source: news services

Lab exams confirmed on Saturday that there was no infectious disease outbreak on a cross-Canada train that was held in quarantine on Friday in northern Ontario after a passenger aboard died.

“An assessment of all passengers on a VIA Rail train from Vancouver to Toronto has been completed and results confirm that there was no outbreak of infectious disease,” Ontario’s Ministry of Health said in a statement.

The train, carrying 264 passengers and 30 crew members, was held for almost 10 hours near the tiny northern Ontario town of Foleyet on Friday after the sudden death of a woman, reported to be in her 60s.

Another woman on the trip suffered shortness of breath, while five other passengers traveling in a group exhibited influenza-like symptoms, raising suspicions of an outbreak and prompting health officials to quarantine the train.

Early reports of the death and scenes of emergency workers in hazardous material suits swarming the train brought back grim memories of the 2003 outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) in Toronto, which killed dozens.

Some of the group of five passengers were ill before they boarded on May 7 in Jasper, Alberta, and lab results showed four of them tested positive for seasonal flu, officials said.

“All individuals seated in the vicinity of these five passengers were assessed. None have symptoms of influenza ... Another passenger on the train experiencing flu-like symptoms has tested positive for a cold virus,” officials added.

Lab results for the woman who had displayed shortness of breath and was taken to a hospital near the city of Timmins were also negative for the flu and other respiratory illness.

The death of the woman is still under investigation, the health ministry said. “But an infectious disease as a cause of death has been ruled out.”

VIA Rail’s trans-Canada services are popular with tourists, many of whom board the train in the Pacific Coast city of Vancouver, British Columbia, or in Jasper, Alberta, for the spectacular journey through the Rocky Mountains.

The train arrived in Toronto on Saturday morning after resuming its journey late Friday afternoon.