500 sect members quarantined

All 500 members of a Toronto religious sect have been told to go into quarantine after their group was linked to cases of severe acute respiratory syndrome.

Dr. Sheela Basrur, Toronto's medical officer of health, said there are 10 probable cases and 19 suspected cases among members of the Bukas-Loob Sa Diyos Covenant group, an international Catholic sect.

Two physicians treating the group have also been infected.

"The majority of cases were actually previously identified and now the pattern is emerging that has linked them all together," said Basrur.

The sect members were exposed to the disease two weeks ago at the funeral of a SARS victim.

"Five hundred members attended a mass, 200 attended a prayer group," Basrur said. "By then, the cat was out of the bag."

SARS is a recently discovered and sometimes fatal form of pneumonia.

INDEPTH: Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome

Dozens of people in the Greater Toronto Area have been afflicted in the past month, and the disease is considered contagious when an infected person is in close contact with others.

Basrur stressed the importance of following quarantine guidelines, including staying home from work and social events.

Meanwhile, dozens of people who work at on the 19th floor at Metro Hall have also been sent into quarantine.

The city employees were told to quarantine themselves after one of their co-workers came into the office despite showing symptoms associated with SARS.

They have been told to stay away from work until Thursday.