WHO’s Warning

12 Jul
SARS virus

The SARS Coronavirus, from:

SARS, severe acute respiratory syndrome, the epidemic, spread faster than expected at a time when immediate global news is taken for granted. Just remembering the warnings are enough to make me cringe. In Canada alone, there were 251 cases, and 44 of these died.  But thank goodness, on July 5, 2003, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced the epidemic was no more. In total, SARS took about 775 people’s lives from 29 countries.

The epidemic of SARS was started in China in November 2002. The first reported case of SARS, a farmer, was treated in the Hospital.  The patient died soon after, and no definite diagnosis was made on his cause of death. Despite taking some action to control it, Chinese government officials did not inform the World Health Organization of the outbreak until February 2003.

It was actually good timing that allowed Canada to learn about the virus.  Canada’s Global Public Health Intelligence Network (GPHIN), is an electronic warning system that is part of the World Health Organization’s Global Outbreak and Alert Response Network (GOARN), that picked up reports of a “flu outbreak” in China.  Thankfully, GPHIN had recently been upgraded to enable Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian, and Spanish translations.  Prior, the system was limited to English or French.  Still, an English report was not generated until 21 January 2003.

The CDC and a Canadian laboratory identified the SARS genome in April, 2003.

Masked Palm Civet

Masked Palm Civet

In late May 2003, studies from samples of wild animals sold as food in the local market in Guangdong, China, found the SARS virus could be isolated from palm civets, even though they didn’t show any symptoms. The preliminary conclusion was the SARS virus crossed the xenographic barrier from palm civet to humans, and more than 10,000 masked palm civets were killed. The virus was also later found in raccoon dogs, ferret badgers, and domestic cats. In 2005, two studies identified a number of SARS-like viruses in Chinese bats.

Health care providers were the heroes.  Even at risk to themselves, they cared for the sick around the clock.  The BBC wrote a wonderful tribute to these men and women.


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10 responses to “WHO’s Warning

  1. Maurice A. Barry

    July 14, 2014 at 10:08 am

    I remember that time and suspect that we have not seen the last of related strains of that deadly bug.

    • tkmorin

      July 14, 2014 at 12:40 pm

      I remember hearing about that a few times in this past year, so I think you’re right. 🙂

  2. hermitsdoor

    July 13, 2014 at 7:31 am

    Given how quickly some new strain of a disease can travel on a plane these days, our governments need to have health departments that can provide warnings to other health departments and the general public. When anti-federalist minded folks here in the USA rant about the government controlling our lives, thereby advocating gutting just about everything except the military, I remind them of life before the USA Center for Disease Control and Health & Human Services Administration. Anyone for the Flu Pandemic of 1918 or how about the Black Death? Fifty million died in 1918. A third of Europe population died from the Plague. Well, maybe that would slow us down from over-population… Not a pleasant prospect.

    • tkmorin

      July 13, 2014 at 9:25 am

      That is so true! 🙂

  3. seeker

    July 12, 2014 at 2:38 pm

    I bet you that humans might be carrier and we just don’t know anything about it. Remember the time airports were closed due to SARS?

    • tkmorin

      July 12, 2014 at 6:47 pm

      I’m sure we are carriers of many things! 🙂

      • seeker

        July 12, 2014 at 7:15 pm

        Only good things, only good things … tee hee.

        • tkmorin

          July 12, 2014 at 9:10 pm

          Oh, of course! 🙂

  4. onepageeveryday.

    July 12, 2014 at 8:15 am

    There’s a pretty moving story about this in Vincent Lam’s episodic novel, “Bloodletting and Miraculous Cures”.

    • tkmorin

      July 12, 2014 at 8:40 am

      Umm … I’m going to see if I can find that. Thank you! 🙂


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