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Remembering SARS - 10 Years Later

In the 2003 global disease outbreak, what became known as SARS started as a mystery illness—without name, origin, or cure.  Public health scientists across the globe scrambled to understand and contain this health threat.

It took many types of public health actions globally to contain SARS in six months.  When the SARS virus reached Hong Kong in 2003, it had a fast track to all points in the world and it was finally stopped using the tools of disease detection (known as epidemiology):

  • The path of the disease had to be tracked
  • The rate of spread had to be calculated
  • The clinical case needed to be defined
  • Guidance for treatment had to be created 
  • Restrictions on travel were needed, and
  • Lab scientists had to tease out the microbe’s name and origin

Ultimately that work was done. Without question, future mystery illnesses will emerge.  The questions will be the same—what is causing the illness, where did it come from, can it be contained, who is at greater risk?  The cost in lives and economic upheaval from future mystery illnesses will depend, in part, on how quickly we can detect the threat and answer the questions of life and death.

Graphics / Images

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    This colorized scanning electron micrograph (SEM) reveals the “rosettelike” appearance of the matured SARS-CoV (coronavirus) particles (arrows).
    Click on the image for the full picture
    © Copyright Dr. Mary Ng Mah Lee, National University of Singapore, Singapore, 2004

    This is a description for image 1.

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    Deborah Cannon of the Special Pathogens Branch processes a SARS specimen.
    Photo credit: CDC/James Gathany

    This is a description for image 2.

  • .

    CDC researchers review incoming SARS data using a SPB diagnostic laboratory computer workstation in the foreground, while in the background, the data entry is being carried out.
    Photo credit: CDC/James Gathany

    This is a description for image 3.

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    This photomicrograph reveals lung tissue pathology due to SARS.
    Photo credit: CDC/ Dr. Sherif Zaki

    This is a description for image 4.

  • .

    In the last two years, CDC doctors and nurses, scientists and health educators, and other public health professionals have responded to over 750 disease outbreaks, environmental emergencies and other public health threats. Above is a small sample of the incidents in the last 10 years where CDC′s work has made a positive difference in the safety and health of people worldwide
    Text Version

    This is a description for image 4.

Contact Information

CDC Media Relations
(404) 639-3286
media@cdc.gov

Spokespersons

Tom Frieden, MD, MPH

Biography

Thomas R. Frieden, MD, MPH

We have a unique window of opportunity. The world is committed to reducing threats to health and we have new technologies that can take many important disease threats off the table, if we act now.

We face a perfect storm of vulnerability. Emerging microbes, resistant microbes that outsmart the drugs used to treat them. Globalization of travel and trade and the greater ease of making deadly organisms in a laboratory place us at greater risk than ever before.

Tom Frieden, MD, MPH - Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Scott F. Dowell, MD, MPH, RADM, USPHS

Biography

Scott F. Dowell, MD, MPH, RADM, USPHS

Unfortunately, we tend to think about threats from emerging or man-made diseases primarily during the emergency. Although important progress has been made over the last 10 years, there is a lot that remains to be accomplished.

Global health security aims to protect Americans and others around the world from emerging infectious disease outbreaks – whether natural, intentional, or accidental.

Scott F. Dowell, MD, MPH, RADM, USPHS - Director of Division of Global Disease Detection & Emergency Response (DGDDER)

Multimedia

Video

Broadcast quality clips on SARS

SARS Video Clips - #1

CDC Director Tom Frieden

Author: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Date: 3/5/2013
Clip 1

SARS Video Clips - #2

CDC Director Tom Frieden

Author: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Date: 3/5/2013
Clip 2

SARS Video Clips - #3

CDC Director Tom Frieden

Author: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Date: 3/5/2013
Clip 3

SARS Video Clips - #4

CDC Director Tom Frieden

Author: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Date: 3/5/2013
Clip 4

 
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