Canada's problems with SARS not impacting Tulsans traveling to our northern neighbor

Monday, April 28th 2003, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

In Canada, health officials report 16 deaths linked to the SARS virus. One native Canadian is heading back to his homeland despite the SARS scare. News on 6 reporter Patrina Adger has the story.

Gary Unger has lived in Broken Arrow since 1968 but up until a few months ago, he was a Canadian citizen. "Alberta, just frozen ponds and playing hockey." Unger's the head coach for the Tulsa Oilers, and when he's not on the ice, he's on the green. For the past 14 summers, Unger's gone back home to Calgary, Alberta to visit family or recruit new players. And this year is no different, not even SARS can keep him away. "I have a friend who runs a Christian kids ranch out there-I gave him a call."

And he said other than the Asian community in Toronto, probably wouldn't go into a hospital." Canadian Chris Simms says his mother is in Toronto on business. “And I asked if she had worries- in a city of 5 million she thought she'd be okay. Nobody's paid much attention other than the fact it's been on television that there's an outbreak." Unger's parents live in Calgary, which is about 2500 miles from Toronto where 16 people have already died from SARS. That's about the distance from California to Mississippi. They say while people are aware of the disease, folks aren't overly concerned. "It's not affecting us here in fact we don't hear much about it at all."

We talked to Gary's mother, Olive; in Canada who says the SARS panic is worse than the disease itself. The World Health Organization advised travelers to defer all nonessential trips to Toronto, which angered Canadian officials who say the warning is unnecessary.

And Unger agrees, and he plans to leave for his trip in a couple of weeks. “As far as stopping the trip or not going- I don't think that would be in my forecast." Unger says he'll have to go through the Toronto airport before he goes into Ontario.