Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Going Viral

June 10, 2013
Dorothy H. Crawford


Remember SARS -- the outbreak that shocked and terrified the world almost exactly 10 years ago? Well now another SARS-like virus has emerged. By June this year it had already attacked 34 people and killed 18 of them.
SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) first appeared in Foshan, Guangdong Province, China, in November 2002. Cases were confined to the local hospitals until a doctor unwittingly carried the culprit coronavirus to Hong Kong in February 2003 while on his way to a family wedding. So began the global spread of SARS coronavirus with Hong Kong International airport as its launch pad. The doctor stayed one night in the Hong Kong Metropole Hotel before checking himself into the Prince of Wales Hospital. He had severe pneumonia and died of SARS 10 days later. During his brief stay at the Metropole the doctor's virus jumped to at least 16 other guests, supposedly via a sneeze in a crowded elevator while on his way to his room on the ninth floor. This unfortunate incident spawned a large SARS outbreak among staff, students and patients at the Prince of Wales Hospital with onward spread to the community at large. It also kick started the virus's global journey, sparking outbreaks in several other countries. An infected businessman from New York staying at the Metropole carried the virus from Hong Kong to Hanoi, Vietnam, while other hotel guests took it to Canada, and Singapore.

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