SARS Surveillance during Emergency Public Health Response, United States, March-July 2003 [open pdf - 195KB]
The emergence of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) presented a challenge to public health and healthcare delivery systems worldwide. The previously unknown respiratory syndrome, characterized by nonspecific clinical symptoms, was highly transmissible in some circumstances, did not respond to antimicrobial therapy, and could rapidly progress to severe respiratory distress and death. When the World Health Organization (WHO) issued a historic global alert about cases of severe atypical pneumonia on March 12, 2003, there was an urgent global need for diagnosis of the etiologic agent, detection and containment of probable cases, guidance on the healthcare management of patients and potentially exposed persons, identification of measures to prevent and control infections, and timely public health communications to a wide range of audiences. On March 14, 2003, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) launched an emergency public health response and established national surveillance for SARS to identify case-patients in the United States and determine if domestic transmission was occurring. This document describe the surveillance system established to detect SARS in the United States, focusing on its design, challenges, and modifications that occurred as the outbreak evolved, and characteristics of the case-patients identified. Such information is critical for preparing for possible future outbreaks of SARS or other emerging microbial threats with nonspecific respiratory symptoms.
Emerging Infectious Diseases (February 2004), v.10, no.2, p. 185-194