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WWE deletes SARS story
By JOHN POWELL -- SLAM! Wrestling


The official WWE Web site is now SARS free. Though the circumstances are unknown, last night the WWE removed a story interviewing Canadian talent about the SARS situation in Toronto. There is no message on the site explaining why the action was taken.

As SLAM! Wrestling reported yesterday afternoon, the mayor's office in Toronto dismissed the SARS-related story and called the timing of it "unfortunate".

"The purpose of the site is to entertain and not to inform, I would think. I don't think anyone is taking their news tips from the WWE. They are probably looking at CANOE," Scot Magnish, the director of communications for the Toronto mayor's office, told SLAM! Wrestling. "The story is probably meant to inflame and entertain. I am not real concerned about it."

Today, the World Health Organization said that Canada will likely soon join other countries that have successfully eliminated SARS in the very near future. To that end, Health Canada has installed a high-tech temperature detector at Toronto's Pearson International Airport to target passengers who currently have a fever, one of the symptoms of having SARS.

"We now are seeing countries that are rapidly decreasing transmission, that includes Singapore Hong Kong and Canada -- Toronto area -- where transmission is coming into single digits new cases each day," Dr. David Heymann, the executive director of the World Health Organization's communicable diseases section, told the Canadian Press.

Just coming off a successful Canadian tour which included stops in Ontario, the World Health Organization lifting its advisory against travel to Toronto, no new cases reported in some time and the fact that the SARS virus never infected the wider Toronto community, the WWE posted a story on their official site Wednesday afternoon entitled 'SARS threat looms for Toronto's Superstars'.

Canadian wrestler Test (Andrew Martin), who no longer lives in Toronto, says in the story that he will wear a mask when he flies into the city to visit his family.

“I spoke to my mom a little bit about it,” Test told the WWE. “She said it’s kind of overblown, what’s in the media. But it’s scary. That’s right next door, and just the way it spreads. I’ve got a 96-year-old grandmother who’s in an old folks’ home. They’ve totally cut off any visitation there. I’m concerned about her. We can’t see her, and I’m worried, because if it spreads to somewhere like that, those people are done. I’m going up there to visit, and I don’t care how stupid I look—I’m wearing a mask on the plane! I’m concerned about that kind of stuff.”

Orangeville, Ontario, native Christian has also thought about wearing a SARS mask before coming to do some WWE Toronto house shows in future.

“Hopefully they’ll be able to keep it under control,” said Christian. “It’s always on your mind. I guess it’s smart to just stay out of crowds, and wash your hands as much as possible. Just take extra precautions. I don’t know how bad the chances are, but there’s always a chance. You want to go home and see your friends and family.”

Stars Trish Stratus and Chief Morley aren't bothered at all saying they believe the outbreak had been blown out of proportion.

“I’m not concerned at all,” Morley told the WWE. “I think it’s been blown way out of proportion in Toronto. When I come to the States, and people are like, ‘Toronto? Ooohhh, SARS…’, I’m just like, ‘What?’ The numbers are very low. It’s the flu, just a more serious form that can kill people who are older or have immune system disorders. I’m not worried about it at all. I don’t see it as a threat."

Though contacted by SLAM! Wrestling, an offical at WWE Canada could not be reached for comment.

While describing the particulars of the SARS virus, the WWE story made no mention of how the outbreak in Toronto has been described as now under control by medical officials. The number of active probable cases dropped to 29 on Tuesday, down from 31 the previous day. All but one of these patients is in hospital. A total of 23 people have died of the disease in the Toronto area since the start of the outbreak. The most recent death came last Wednesday. Unlike what is happening in China, the majority of citizens in Toronto have not been wearing protective masks or the like.

In reaction to WHO's travel advisory, Toronto mayor Mel Lastman sought to calm international fears about the SARS outbreak in Toronto.

"It is safe to live in Toronto - and if it is safe to live here, it is safe to visit here. This isn't a city in the grips of fear and panic: this is a city of 2.5 million people who are going about their business the same way they always do," he stated.

Analysts estimate SARS will cost Canada’s economy between $1.5 billion and $2.1 billion this year, according to a report released Tuesday by TD Bank. The Ontario government recently announced that it would spend $118 million on a marketing campaign to increase tourism this summer. The city is eager to undo some of this damage and is encouraging numerous local campaigns to attract business, including the pitch for celebrity visits and cut-rate deals on entertainment packages.

The WWE has recently been linking their superstars to mainstream news stories and posting their comments on their Web site.

SLAM! Wrestling and the CANOE Web site are based in downtown Toronto.