May 9, 2008 / 3:26 PM / 12 years ago

No infectious outbreak on Canadian train: officials

One person died and several others were taken to hospital after a mystery illness hit passengers on a Canadian long-distance train, local media said on Friday. REUTERS/Graphics

TORONTO/OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canadian health officials said on Friday that a death and reported outbreak of flu-like symptoms aboard a cross-Canada train were not due to an infectious disease and in fact were likely not related at all.

About 290 passengers and crew aboard the Vancouver-Toronto train were still being held in quarantine near the tiny northern Ontario town of Foleyet, but would likely be able to continue their journey later on Friday, Ontario’s top medical official told a news conference.

“While the cause of death continues to be under investigation, it has been determined that the deceased did most likely not have an infectious disease,” said Dr. David Williams.

Early reports of the death and of emergency workers in hazardous materials suits swarming the train had brought back grim memories of the 2003 outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) in Toronto, which killed dozens and put the medical community on edge.

Williams said one woman — reported to be in her 60s — had died suddenly aboard the VIA Rail train, while another had displayed shortness of breath, most likely due to a pre-existing medical condition. She was airlifted to a hospital in nearby Timmins,

Five others traveling in a group had displayed flu-like symptoms, but health officials determined they had been feeling ill before boarding the train, and one had earlier visited a clinic.

“It happened to be a confluence of three (events) at the same time,” Williams said.

The remaining passengers and crew are being screened as a precaution, he said.

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.

Additional reporting by Reuters correspondents in Toronto, Ottawa and Vancouver; writing by Janet Guttsman and Cameron French; editing by Rob Wilson

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