Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome
CBC News Online | Updated April 22, 2004
Origin of the crisis:
Health officials declared in July 2003 that the global epidemic of severe acute respiratory syndrome was over, but in December 2003 and January 2004, China confirmed four new cases of SARS in southern Guangdong province. Those patients recovered, but on April 22, 2004, China confirmed two more suspected cases of the disease, one in Beijing and one in Anhui, a province in eastern China.
The first case of SARS appeared in November 2002. It killed 800 people around the world, including 44 in Toronto. The disease killed 350 in China. That country later ordered the killing of some 10,000 civet cats, suspected to be carriers of SARS. The weasel-like mammals are considered a delicacy in Guangdong and are served in wild-game restaurants.
Investigations and reports:
Two inquiries into the political and medical reaction to the SARS outbreak released reports in April 2004.
On April 20, an interim report by Ontario Justice Archie Campbell's inquiry offered 53 recommendations including the establishment of a provincial centre for disease control. Campbell observed that Ontario's health system had been unable to manage the crisis because it was "broken." The province's medical infrastructure was pushed to its limits and the region's hospitality industry was also paralyzed by of the outbreak.
A day after that report, an independent expert panel on SARS presented another 50 suggestions. The panel observed that local officials, who are the first to observe an infectious outbreak and are best poised to contain it, had the least resources available to them.
Both reports focused on the need to improve public health spending on infectious disease prevention, identification, control and containment and the importance of clear communication and cooperation among all levels of government and health care providers.
How contagious is SARS?
- High fever (>38 C or 100.4 F);
- Dry cough;
- Shortness of breath or breathing difficulties; Changes in chest X-rays indicative of pneumonia also occur;
- SARS may be associated with other symptoms, including headache, muscular stiffness, loss of appetite, malaise, confusion, rash and diarrhea.
Based on currently available evidence, close contact with an infected person is needed for the infective agent to spread from one person to another. Contact with aerosolized (exhaled) droplets and bodily secretions from an infected person appears to be importantů the amount of the infective agent needed to cause an infection has not yet been determined.
Source: The World Health Organization
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