Looking Beyond SARS
Health Authorities on Alert for the Next Epidemic

click for moreThe latest NPR coverage.

click for moreRead the new CDC guidelines for controlling SARS in the United States.

A health worker wears protective gear during last May's SARS outbreak at the North York General Hospital in Toronto.
A health worker wears protective gear during last May's SARS outbreak at the North York General Hospital in Toronto.
Credit: AFP/Corbis

October 2003 -- In the past few decades, new diseases have been emerging at a rate of about one a year. This year it was Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome. Before the SARS epidemic was over, it struck more than 8,000 people in 32 countries. More than 700 people died.

Health authorities around the world are on alert for the return of SARS. They're especially concerned that SARS -- or the next new disease -- might spread to developing nations ill-equipped to detect the threat and prevent its spread.

NPR presents a series on the world after SARS, examining such issues as the science behind detecting and treating the disease, to the response by health care workers on the front lines. In the series' final segment, NPR's Richard Knox takes a look at new CDC guidelines for controlling SARS in the United States. Read the CDC guidelines.

Stories in the Series

listenOct. 23, 2003: New Guidelines for Containing SARS
If you go to a doctors' office or a hospital this fall and you have a cough and a fever, you'll probably be asked to take precautions as soon as you're in the door. That's one suggestion contained in new SARS control guidelines issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. NPR's Richard Knox looks at the impact of the new guidelines on Boston hospitals.

click for more Read the CDC guidelines.

listenOct. 21, 2003: The Front Lines Fighters
When a new infectious disease appears, health care workers are the most at risk. NPR's Joanne Silberner takes a look at how Canadian health care workers responded to SARS, and what that might mean for a new outbreak. Disaster planners worry that if nurses and other health care workers think a situation is too dangerous, they may not show up for duty.

listenListen to Silberner's report.

listenOct. 14, 2003: How to Stop SARS?
When SARS emerged from Asia last spring, public health authorities resorted to a disease-control technique that dates to biblical times. They set up quarantines. Taiwan alone asked more than 150,000 people to say home. Now, as health officials brace for a possible resurgence of SARS this fall, they're studying the quarantine experiences of last spring and the role it should play in future outbreaks. NPR's Richard Harris reports.

listenListen to Harris' report.

listenOct. 7, 2003: Testing and Treatment
Researchers say there are some promising treatments for SARS, but they’re still in the early phases of human testing and may not be available if there’s another epidemic this fall, as many officials fear. If there is another outbreak, a reliable test will also be crucial to allaying fears and deciding what public health measures are necessary. NPR's Joe Palca reports from Fort Detrick, Md., where much of the research into SARS takes place.

listenListen to Palca's report.

listenSept. 30, 2003: Disease and the Developing World
In the crowded metropolises of the world, cramped living conditions and poor sanitation are breeding grounds for new diseases. These cities escaped SARS this year, but with health officials worried about a new outbreak this fall, their attention is on the developing world. NPR's Brenda Wilson visits Nigeria, where a transportation network could easily speed the spread of a new virus or bacterium.

listenListen to Wilson's report.

click for more See a photo gallery of life in Lagos.

listenSept. 23, 2003: Detecting the Next SARS
The world's nerve center for disease detection is at the World Health Organization in Switzerland, where researchers monitor "rumors of disease." The surveillance system has been quietly operating for years, hoping to nip the next big epidemic in the bud and assisted heavily by the Web. NPR's Richard Knox reports that the system makes it more difficult for countries to hide or minimize outbreaks.

listenListen to Knox's report.

click for more Read Knox's interview with Dr. Mike Ryan, coordinator of the Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network at WHO.

click for moreBrowse NPR's coverage of SARS.

Past Highlights from the Field

NPR's Richard Harris from China:

click for more June 3, 2003: A Chinese School's Case of SARS
At a school for autistic children in China, a volunteer falls ill with SARS. When parents ignore a quarantine and take their children home, school director Tian Huiping is faced with a difficult decision: should she report them to authorities?

NPR's Joe Palca from Hong Kong:

click for more May 25, 2003: SARS Treatment Tested as New Cases Arise
Doctors in Hong Kong work on a new therapy for the flu-like disease, using blood plasma from patients who have recovered from the disease to treat others who have been infected. Palca talks with a doctor who had been infected with the disease and now donates his plasma to help others.

click for more May 16, 2003: Tracing the Spread of SARS
The mere mention of Amoy Gardens causes alarm -- nearly 15 percent of all SARS cases in Hong Kong came from this one apartment complex. Palca visited Amoy, and reports that even though the buildings have been declared SARS-free, people continue to avoid the area.

NPR's Richard Knox from Canada:

click for more May 28, 2003: Toronto in the Grip of SARS Again
Doctors say they now realize that the latest outbreak of SARS in Toronto was "smoldering" on the orthopedic wing of North York General Hospital for several weeks, even as health officials were declaring victory and relaxing precautions. The Toronto discovery could spell trouble for countries where victories over SARS has also been declared.

click for more April 29, 2003: Protecting Hospital Workers from SARS
Canadian officials say the outbreak of the deadly respiratory disease is under control. They cite a decline in the number of people in quarantine, and a decrease in new cases. But hospitals fear the spread of SARS among employees.

click for more April 27, 2003: The Impact of SARS on Canada
Knox reports on the effect that the World Health Organization's warning against travel to Toronto is having on the city's residents and businesses.

click for more April 24, 2003: Toronto Officials Blast Travel Warning on SARS
The World Health Organization cautions travelers to avoid China's Shanxi province, Beijing and Toronto, saying the regions are high-risk areas for the deadly respiratory disease called SARS. But Toronto Mayor Mel Lastman and other officials call the warning an overreaction.

Web Resources

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention SARS Web site

SARS news updates from the CDC

SARS updates from the World Health Organization

Science magazine's special section on SARS contains a collection of studies and editorials on the new disease.

ProMED-mail, a service of the International Society for Infectious Diseases, tracks reports of emerging diseases from researchers around the globe.