On March 15, 2003, with clusters of SARS cases being reported from China, Hong Kong, Vietnam, Singapore, and Canada, WHO issued a global travel alert. At that point, the international health community faced a potential pandemic for which there was no identified causal agent, no diagnostic laboratory assays, no defined properties or risk factors for transmission, no infection-control practices of proven efficacy, and no known treatment or prevention measures. Given that setting, the declaration on July 5 that SARS had been contained (in less than 4 months after its initial recognition), represented a remarkable achievement for a truly extraordinary international public health effort. Now, nearly 1 year after the world first faced this infectious disease challenge, the public health community is equipped with a broader understanding of the agent, its pathophysiology, clinical signs and symptoms, risk factors for transmission, and public health measures that can successfully contain the disease. The breadth of this understanding and international scope of the outbreak response are reflected in the range of manuscript topics in this issue of Emerging Infectious Diseases. This document reviews some of the salient features of the biology and epidemiology of SARS while underscoring some of the remaining unanswered questions.
Emerging Infectious Diseases (February 2004), v.10, no.2, p. 167-170