GORHAM (AP) – Concerns about the new flu-like virus that has spread from Asia to the United States and elsewhere has led to the cancellation of the Gorham High School band’s long-anticipated trip to Toronto next week.

At least four deaths linked to severe acute respiratory syndrome have been reported in Toronto, where the 98-member band had planned to spend four days.

The decision to cancel the trip was made by the band director, parents, students and the high school administration, Superintendent Michael Moore said.

Band director Ray Mathieu held out the possibility of organizing an alternate tour in the United States later this spring or getting a refund from the company that organized the trip.

Mathieu said he had been in contact with officials from the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta over the past few weeks, monitoring the progress of the deadly disease.

“In my 39 years, we’ve had some disappointments and success, but I’ve never had anything like this,” he said. “I’m at least as disappointed as the kids, if not more.”

For more than a year, band members have been planning and raising money for the tour, which was scheduled to begin April 17. The 98 student musicians, comprising the concert band, jazz band and small jazz combo, were set to perform in multiple venues around the city. In their off time, they planned to get in some sightseeing.

“Obviously we’re not taking it well. I think it’s just bad luck, that’s all,” said James Hebert, a junior who plays trombone. “Who would have thought that it would happen. I guess there’s nothing we can do right now.”

Health officials said more than 2,600 people have been infected worldwide by SARS, with at least 104 reported dead. Although the virus has primarily spread through parts of Asia, 148 suspected cases have been reported in the United States.

The two people in Maine who fit the criteria for SARS have fully recovered.

More than 100 cases have been reported in Canada, including 10 deaths.

At least four of the deaths have been in Toronto.

AP-ES-04-09-03 1015EDT



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