At the Epicentre: Hong Kong and the SARS Outbreak

At the Epicentre: Hong Kong and the SARS Outbreak

At the Epicentre: Hong Kong and the SARS Outbreak

At the Epicentre: Hong Kong and the SARS Outbreak

Excerpt

…SARS can and must be contained—pushed back out of its new human host. One by one, the many puzzling features of this new disease are being unmasked. One by one, the most severe outbreaks in the initial waves of infection are being brought under control. Recommended measures—case detection, isolation and infection control, and contact tracing and follow-up surveillance—are working. With this reassurance, the image of populations unmasked because of fear, the public face of SARS, can now begin to fade.

—The World Health Organisation (WHO) 20 May 2003

SARS’ place in history is assured. It was the first severe new disease to emerge in the twenty-first century. As such, it provided a warning of what could happen in a globally interconnected world where infectious diseases have the capacity to spread rapidly along international air travel routes. Within a period of days, SARS spread from mainland China via Hong Kong to many cities around the world. In the initial stages of the outbreak, doctors did not even know what to call the disease, much less how it should be treated. The symptoms were like those of common pneumonia but the disease was clearly more virulent. For want of a better term, doctors began referring to it as a form of “atypical pneumonia.”

Fortunately, SARS was not the global pandemic that communicable disease experts had feared it would be. Despite its ability to spread via . . .

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