The Ominous March of a Virus

Hong Kong citizens wear masks to protect against a mystery illness SARS. Since the first reported death from SARS in Hong Kong, on March 4, 2003 the disease to date has spread to four countries and affected citizens of 18 countries

The ongoing outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) has prompted great concern and caution around the world. Some have compared the SARS outbreak to that of the Spanish flu of 1918-1919, which killed over 20 million people. While SARS has not caused nearly as many deaths to date, it has spread more rapidly than the Spanish flu due to the intensification of globalization over the past several decades. Spanish flu was spread by people traveling on trains and by troops on ships. Cheaper air travel and increased numbers of international air passengers have facilitated the movement of SARS from Asia to North America and Europe - in a matter of days. On March 4, 2003, a Chinese doctor visiting Hong Kong died of SARS . The people he came in contact with at his hotel and in the hospital where he died became infected. From that point the virus has continued to leapfrog to destinations round the globe.

In this Special Report, YaleGlobal offers essential information on the spread and prevention of SARS and an exploration of the impact of the disease around the world.

What is SARS?

Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) is an acute form of pneumonia. The initial symptoms of SARS include a fever, sometimes with body aches, headaches, or other signs of discomfort. In the first week of onset, SARS patients may also experience a dry, non-productive cough. In severe cases, patients may need to be placed on artificial respirators in order to breath. According the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization, people who contract SARS may not experience symptoms for up to 10 days after contracting the virus.

Selected articles about SARS

Image of Coronavirus. Is SARS a Cousin?

The Spread of SARS

Thus far, investigations have shown that SARS is spread mainly through droplet transmission. For example, if someone with SARS coughs or sneezes into the air, the droplets expelled could infect another person if inhaled. Another possible mode of transmission is by simple contact with objects that have become contaminated.

Total Reported Cases

Current Data from the World Health Organization

Total Reported Deaths

Reported Cases in China