The emergence of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) in late 2002 and 2003 challenged the global public health community to confront a novel epidemic that spread rapidly from its origins in southern China until it had reached more than 25 other countries within a matter of months. In addition to the number of patients infected with the SARS virus, the disease had profound economic and political repercussions in many of the affected regions. Recent reports of isolated new SARS cases and a fear that the disease could reemerge and spread have put public health officials on high alert for any indications of possible new outbreaks. This report examines the response to SARS by public health systems in individual countries, the biology of the SARS coronavirus and related coronaviruses in animals, the economic and political fallout of the SARS epidemic, quarantine law and other public health measures that apply to combating infectious diseases, and the role of international organizations and scientific cooperation in halting the spread of SARS.
The report provides an illuminating survey of findings from the epidemic, along with an assessment of what might be needed in order to contain any future outbreaks of SARS or other emerging infections. Illustrations, maps