HP workers quarantined as Sars precaution

A Hewlett-Packard IT services facility in Toronto has been operating with a replacement workforce since Tuesday after two workers...

A Hewlett-Packard IT services facility in Toronto has been operating with a replacement workforce since Tuesday, after two workers came down with symptoms of the dangerous Sars virus.

Monica Sarkar, an HP spokeswoman in the US, would not comment on whether the two workers had recently been traveling in Asia, where Sars, or severe acute respiratory syndrome, is believed to have originated. 

The two workers, whose sex and age and have not been released, were immediately hospitalised, while the other 197 workers in the Toronto facility were sent home and placed on in-home quarantines, as recommended by Canadian health authorities. 

The facility remains open with a reduced staff, and is being run by workers who were not in the building when the two ill workers were present, and by employees from other offices. 

A third employee, in an HP facility in Vancouver, has also become ill in what is being called a suspected case of Sars, Sarkar said. The Vancouver location was evaluated by health officials there, but no workers were sent home. 

Angela Rea, a spokeswoman for HP Canada, said health officials have not given a date for when the Toronto in-home quarantines will end. The action will come, she said, "when authorities are satisfied that no one has continued to show any symptoms".

"Fortunately, none of them are showing any signs of being sick," Rea said. "And every day that goes by, it becomes less likely that they will become sick." 

One of the two Toronto workers is listed as having a "probable" case of Sars, while the other worker is listed as a "possible" case of the illness, Rea said. 

"We are very concerned for those two employees, and it has to be very difficult for anyone who has to be quarantined," she said. 

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