March 31, 2003
Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) has captivated the health
community. Doctors all over the world are working to find the exact
cause, and a possible cure, to this disease. With current technology,
doctors are able to work together, sharing information almost immediately
with those thousands of miles away. The media and the public are also
being updated frequently. What have we learned since February?
"On February 11, the
Chinese Ministry of Health notified WHO that 305 cases of acute respiratory
syndrome of unknown etiology had occurred in six municipalities in
Guangdong province in southern China during November 16, 2002--February
9, 2003. The disease was characterized by transmission to health-care
workers and household contacts; five deaths were reported..."
March 15, 2003:
"Hundreds of people in Vietnam, Hong Kong and mainland China,
many of them hospital workers, have come down with a mysterious respiratory
illness that has killed at least six people and left most of the others
with severe breathing difficulties from which they have not yet fully
recovered, officials of the World Health Organization said yesterday.
The illness has also been reported in Canada. Even the most sophisticated
tests by leading laboratories in four countries have failed to find
a cause, the officials said. Nor is the illness responding to antiviral
or antibiotic drugs. The health organization, a unit of the United
Nations based in Geneva, has issued its first global alert in 10 years,
advising health officials of the illness and asking them to report
"As of March 19, WHO
has received reports of 264 patients from 11 countries with suspected
and probable* SARS (Table). Areas with reported local transmission
include Hong Kong and Guangdong province, China; Hanoi, Vietnam; and
Singapore. More limited transmission has been reported in Taipei,
Taiwan, and Toronto, Canada. The initial cases reported in Singapore,
Taiwan, and Toronto were among persons who all had traveled to China."
"27 March 2003
WHO is today recommending new measures, related to international travel,
aimed at reducing the risk of further international spread of severe
acute respiratory syndrome (SARS). The recommended measures include
screening of air passengers departing from a small number of affected
areas on flights to another country. The affected areas, where transmission
of the SARS infectious agent is known to be spreading in a human-to-human
chain, are kept under constant review and posted each day on the WHO
web site....Most cases continue to occur in persons in close face-to-face
contact with SARS patients. Close face-to-face contact could conceivably
occur in an aircraft among persons seated close to a person infected
with SARS and coughing or sneezing."
March 31, 2003:
"As of today, a cumulative total of 1622 cases, with 58 deaths,
have been reported from 13 countries. This represents an increase
of 72 cases and 4 deaths since the last figures were compiled on Saturday....Since
global surveillance of SARS began at the end of February, some evidence
suggests that a small number of suspected and probable cases of SARS
have departed from the small number of affected countries on flights
to other countries."
While some might consider
it astonishing that this disease has been contained as well as it
has, while we have learned so much so quickly, others--who have come
to expect instantaneous results from our immediate society--may be
frustrated that so many have become infected, and so little is still
Yes, we now have "the
answers" to many of the medical problems that have plagued the
world, but there is still so much we do not know. Let's go back to
March 22, 2003--just a little more than a week ago:
with findings shared daily in teleconferences and by email, has allowed
advances that normally need months to take place in a matter of days.
'This spectacular achievement is an example of what the world can
do when the intellectual resources of nations around the world are
focused on a single problem,' says Klaus Stöhr, a WHO virologist
who is coordinating the global laboratory network. 'Scientists who
are by default academic competitors are now working virtually shoulder
to shoulder. In less than a week, they have produced results which,
in other circumstances, would likely have taken months or more....'"
Questions of the Week:
The international medical community has come together to isolate and
research this new disease. What advantages and disadvantages would
there be for the medical community and the general public if more
diseases were handled this way? Why do you think the medical community
is handling SARS differently than other potentially fatal diseases?
Please email me with any
ideas or suggestions.
Note: Due to increasing amounts of SPAM sent to this account, please include "QOW" in the subject line whe
I look forward to reading what you have to say.
Health Community Coordinator
Access Excellence @ the National Health Museum
P.S. "SARS, an atypical
pneumonia of unknown aetiology, was recognized at the end of February
The current Question of the Week focuses on the handling of SARS by
the medical community. If you are interested in the most current information,
or the history of this disease, The World Health Organization (WHO)
and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have both set
up sites with numerous links that are kept current as more is learned.
The World Health Organization
for Disease Control and Prevention http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/sars/
If you need help gaining
information about other aspects of this international health concern,
please contact me.