Wired: By Maryn McKenna
The most recent update on the novel coronavirus
that has been spreading in the Mideast since last summer adds three
more cases to the outbreak, and raises the possibility that most of the
recent cluster — 13 cases out of 30 — may be due to the infection
spreading within one hospital. Infectious disease experts find that
worrisome, because when the related disease SARS arose 10 years ago,
hospitals unknowingly amplified its first rapid spread. International
health authorities are taking this threat seriously: On Monday, the
World Health Organization published a multi-page infection-prevention guide for any hospitals that might take in victims.
When SARS broke out of southern China in early 2003, I was in the
midst of a year-long project shadowing members of the disease-detective
corps of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, known as the
Epidemic Intelligence Service. Some of the most explosive outbreaks they
were sent to investigate were in hospitals, and front-line health care
workers were some of the earliest victims.
I thought it would be worth remembering what the early days of SARS
were like, while we wait to see what this new virus does next. So over
the next few days, I’m going to run a couple of excerpts from a book I
wrote in 2004 about the EIS, Beating Back the Devil.
In this one, a hospital swamped by SARS locks its doors, with its sick
personnel inside. In the second excerpt, a doctor who worked in that
hospital — and alerted the world to the threat — loses his life to the