SARS was the first great pandemic of the 21st century, and for a tense couple of months it looked as though this new virus, with an unusually high mortality rate, might sweep the entire planet. In order to write this account, published by the American Public Health Association, I went to some of the epicenters of the outbreak, such as Toronto and Hong Kong. I even stayed at the hotel in Hong Kong where the virus first leaped from a single sick person to as many as 18 new victims, and visited the animal market in South China where it first jumped from animals to humans. As a result, I got to see how public health works on the ground floor, when all the alarms are going off. This was a lethal virus for which there was no vaccine, no reliable and swift diagnostic test, no treatment and no cure. The fact that the pandemic was contained and then halted was an extraordinary demonstration of international cooperation, courage and common sense.
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