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This paper reviews current understanding of the epidemiology, transmission dynamics and control of the aetiological agent of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS). We present analyses of data on key parameters and distributions and discuss the processes of data capture, analysis and public health policy formulation during the SARS epidemic are discussed. The low transmissibility of the virus, combined with the onset of peak infectiousness following the onset of clinical symptoms of disease, transpired to make simple public health measures, such as isolating patients and quarantining their contacts, very effective in the control of the SARS epidemic. We conclude that we were lucky this time round, but may not be so with the next epidemic outbreak of a novel aetiological agent. We present analyses that help to further understanding of what intervention measures are likely to work best with infectious agents of defined biological and epidemiological properties. These lessons learnt from the SARS experience are presented in an epidemiological and public health context.

Original publication

DOI

10.1098/rstb.2004.1490

Type

Journal article

Journal

Philosophical transactions of the Royal Society of London. Series B, Biological sciences

Publication Date

07/2004

Volume

359

Pages

1091 - 1105

Addresses

Department of Infectious Disease Epidemiology, Faculty of Medicine, Imperial College London, St Mary's Campus, Norfolk Place, London W2 1PG, UK. roy.anderson@imperial.ac.uk

Keywords

Humans, SARS Virus, Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, Disease Outbreaks, Age Factors, Communicable Disease Control, Time Factors, History, 21st Century, China