Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) is a viral respiratory illness caused by
a corona virus. SARS was first reported in Asia in February 2003. Over the next few
months, the illness spread to more than two dozen countries in North America, South
America, Europe, and Asia before the SARS global outbreak of 2003. The main way that
SARS seems to spread is by close person-to-person contact, or is thought to be
transmitted when an infected person coughs or sneezes. The virus also can spread when a
person touches a surface or object "contaminated with infectious droplets" and then
touches his or her mouth, nose, or eyes. It is also possible that the SARS virus might
spread more broadly through the air.
China has been hit the hardest by SARS, which was first discovered in the
southern province of Guangdong in mid-November 2002. Nearly three months later, the
Chinese ministry of health reported that there had been 300 cases of an "acute respiratory
syndrome" in the province.
Nearly half the cases in China have been in Beijing, where
cinemas, theatres and internet cafes were closed at the height of the crisis. Just about 300
of the cases in China are in Hong Kong . Taiwan's first case of SARS was reported on 18
March, but the outbreak really took hold during a large surge in late April and early May.
The WHO says 90% of cases in Taiwan have been related to hospital situations. More
than 150 doctors and nurses have left their jobs in protest at the lack of safeguards and
two hospitals have been fined for covering up the spread of the disease. Canada is the
worst-hit country outside Asia. The virus entered the country when a woman infected in a
hotel in Hong Kong returned home.