NU Online News Service, April 3, 2003, 10:33 a.m. EST – Severe acute respiratory syndrome, the contagious new form of pneumonia that has been plaguing Asia in recent weeks, is starting to have an indirect effect on the North American life insurance industry.

The Toronto Globe and Mail is reporting that two big Toronto life insurers, Manulife Financial Corp. and Sun Life Financial Services of Canada Inc., have issued notices discouraging employees from traveling to China and Hong Kong for business.

Officials at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have advised U.S. residents against nonessential travel to China, Hong Kong, Singapore and Vietnam because of SARS.

World health authorities are not yet sure what causes SARS, but they have suggested that SARS might represent an outbreak of a new type of coronavirus. The CDC now has a test it can use to help state health departments determine whether residents with severe pneumonia have SARS, CDC officials say.

So far, the United States has had only 85 reported cases of SARS. None of the SARS patients in the United States has died, Dr. Julie Gerberding, the CDC director, said Tuesday during a teleconference.

The World Health Organization is reporting 2,151 cases and 78 deaths outside the United States, Gerberding said.

The symptoms of SARS include a high fever and pneumonia. In some cases the pneumonia can lead to death.

More information about SARS is available at http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/sars/