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Annu Rev Med. 2005;56:357-81.

Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS): a year in review.

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University of British Columbia Center for Disease Control, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada V5Z 4R4.


Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) emerged from China as an untreatable and rapidly spreading respiratory illness of unknown etiology. Following point source exposure in February 2003, more than a dozen guests infected at a Hong Kong hotel seeded multi-country outbreaks that persisted through the spring of 2003. The World Health Organization responded by invoking traditional public health measures and advanced technologies to control the illness and contain the cause. A novel coronavirus was implicated and its entire genome was sequenced by mid-April 2003. The urgency of responding to this threat focused scientific endeavor and stimulated global collaboration. Through real-time application of accumulating knowledge, the world proved capable of arresting the first pandemic threat of the twenty-first century, despite early respiratory-borne spread and global susceptibility. This review synthesizes lessons learned from this remarkable achievement. These lessons can be applied to re-emergence of SARS or to the next pandemic threat to arise.

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