SARS Timeline

Nurses in full protective clothing wash their hands with anti-bacterial lotion, prior to opening the fourth SARS assessment clinic in Ontario, April 3, 2003.
Nurses in full protective clothing wash their hands prior to opening a SARS assessment clinic in Ontario.
Credit: Reuters Limited 2003

SARS made its first appearance in November 2002 in China's Guangdong province. The disease spread rapidly around the globe, alarming health officials. Below is a timeline of events for the 2002-2003 epidemic:

November 2002 - February 2003: Hundreds of people in China's Guangdong province are hospitalized with a mysterious respiratory illness. Five of the cases are fatal.

Feb. 10, 2003: An online service that tracks emerging infectious diseases posts a report of the mysterious pneumonia-like illness in China. Chinese health officials say the outbreak is under control.

Feb. 15, 2003: A man, known as patient A, from Guangdong province develops symptoms of SARS. He travels to Hong Kong to visit family.

Feb. 21, 2003: Patient A checks into a hotel. He infects 12 other people in the same hotel. Investigators say these patients in turn spread the illness to others in Hong Kong, Vietnam, Singapore, Ireland, Germany and Canada.

Feb. 22: Patient A is hospitalized in Hong Kong. He dies the next day. Four hospital workers and two of his family members become ill. One family member dies.

March 5, 2003: A 78-year-old woman who had traveled to Hong Kong in February dies of SARS in Toronto.

March 11, 2003: Health officials in Hong Kong report an increase in acute pneumonia-like cases among hospital workers. Ninety-nine SARS cases among health care workers are linked to patient J, a man who stayed at the same Hong Kong hotel as patient A.

March 13, 2003: An American suffering from breathing troubles dies in Hong Kong after being transferred from a Hanoi hospital. Soon after, health workers in both hospitals develop similar symptoms.

March 15, 2003: The World Health Organization issues a global SARS alert warning travelers returning from Asia to watch for symptoms including fever, coughing and difficulty breathing.

March 17, 2003: Canadian health officials report 11 cases of SARS in Toronto, British Columbia and Alberta.

March 24, 2003: Health officials in Singapore quarantine hundreds of people possibly exposed to SARS.

March 27, 2003: Officials in Hong Kong quarantine more than 1,000 people and close schools. Singapore also closes its schools. Researchers at the University of Hong Kong report they have evidence SARS is a coronavirus. WHO requests that airlines screen passengers for SARS on flights leaving from Hong Kong, Singapore, Hanoi, Toronto and parts of China. WHO reports more than 1,400 cases worldwide, including 53 deaths.

March 28, 2003: Chinese officials report a ten-fold increase in the number of SARS-related deaths in Guangdong province; 10 new cases surface in Beijing.

March 29, 2003: Dr. Carlo Urbani, the doctor who first identified SARS, dies of the illness in Thailand. Health officials in Ontario, Canada, report around 100 probable SARS cases in the province.

April 1, 2003: The U.S. State Department authorizes all non-essential employees and their families to leave the province of Guangdong. Hong Kong health officials say the city now has nearly 700 SARS cases. WHO advises travelers to stay away from Hong Kong and China. In Canada, the death toll from SARS reaches six.

April 2, 2003: China reports 361 new cases of SARS for the month of March; the total number of cases in Guangdong province rises to 1,153.

April 4, 2003: WHO officials report a total of 2,353 probable SARS cases, 84 of them fatal, in 16 countries.

April 6, 2003: Canadian health officials report the number of suspected and probable SARS cases in that nation has surpassed 130, including nine deaths.

April 8, 2003: The total number of probable SARS cases worldwide reaches 2,671, including 103 deaths, according to the WHO.

April 9: WHO investigators present an initial report on the Guangdong outbreak of SARS. The researchers report evidence of highly contagious spreaders capable of infecting as many of 100 persons.

April 16, 2003: Scientists confirm a new form of coronavirus -- a family of viruses that also causes the common cold -- causes SARS.

April 19, 2003: Another 12 people die of SARS in Hong Kong, bringing the region's death toll to 81 -- the highest of any location affected by the outbreak.

April 20, 2003: Chinese officials report 12 new SARS-related deaths and 400 new cases of infection -- a tenfold increase -- in Beijing. The jump in SARS numbers prompts Chinese Communist party leaders to fire the country's health minister and the mayor of Beijing.

April 23, 2003: The WHO warns against all but essential travel to Toronto, Beijing and China's Shanxi province. The locations join Hong Kong and China's Guangdong province on WHO's list of areas that should be avoided because of SARS outbreaks.

April 28, 2003: After 20 days pass without reports of any new SARS cases, Vietnam becomes the first country to successfully contain its SARS outbreak, according the WHO, and is removed from the list of affected countries. Worldwide, there are now more than 5,000 probable cases of SARS and 321 fatalities in 26 countries.

April 29, 2003: The WHO removes its warning against all but essential travel to Toronto. Travel advisories remain in effect for Hong Kong, Beijing and two provinces in China.

May 2, 2003: As of early May, the WHO reports more than 5,600 probable cases of SARS -- 391 of them fatal -- 30 countries.

May 8, 2003: The WHO extends its warning against unnecessary travel to Taipei in Taiwan, and Tianjin and Inner Mongolia in China. The WHO also now says the SARS death rate is 15 percent -- twice as high as earlier reported. Worldwide, more than 7,000 cases and 500 deaths are reported.

May 23, 2003: The WHO lifts advisories on travel to Hong Kong and China's Guangdong province. Worldwide, more than 8,000 cases and 680 deaths are reported.

May 29, 2003: Toronto reports a second outbreak.

July 2003: WHO officials consider the SARS threat under control and lift all travel advisories. To date, 8,099 people in 32 countries have been infected, with 744 of those cases fatal. No new cases have been reported since July.