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Lessons from severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS): implications for infection control.

ABSTRACT

Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), the first global epidemic in the 21st century, affected over 8500 people in approximately 30 countries . With a crude mortality of 9%, its cause was quickly identified as a novel coronavirus that jumped species from animals to man. The SARS coronavirus epidemic, which began in the Fall of 2002, was related to the exotic food industry in southern China, initially involving disproportionate numbers of animal handlers, chefs, and caterers. Subsequently, person-to-person transmission spawned the outbreak. What distinguished this illness clinically was the fact that approximately half of the victims were health care workers , infected while caring for recognized or unrecognized patients with SARS. There are many curiosities and uncertainties surrounding the epidemic of SARS with lessons that may be useful to the community of infectious diseases physicians, especially when looking ahead to the next epidemic. Herein we relate our perspectives on useful lessons derived from a review of the SARS epidemic.