SARS outbreak in Beijing spread rapidly, was controlled fairly quickly

CHICAGO Improving triage in hospitals and dissemination of information to the public helped bring a rapid resolution to the spread of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) in Beijing in early 2003, according to an article in the December 24/31 issue of The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).

Beijing, China, experienced the largest outbreak of SARS in the world with a total of 2,521 reported probable cases, according to background information in the article. The outbreak began March 5, 2003, with the importation of several cases among travelers from other SARS-affected areas and soon accelerated as multiple SARS cases occurred in health care facilities, peaking in late April when more than 100 new patients with SARS were being hospitalized daily. During the first week of May, the number of new cases dropped steeply and then declined steadily during the next few weeks, with the onset of the last probable case on May 29, 2003. The onset of the last case occurred only 6 weeks after the peak of the outbreak.

Xinghuo Pang, M.D., of the Beijing Center for Disease Prevention and Control, and colleagues evaluated the measures taken to rapidly control the SARS outbreak in Beijing and assess the effectiveness of some of these measures. The researchers reviewed data from standardized surveillance forms from SARS cases (2,521 probable cases) and their close contacts observed in Beijing between March 5, 2003, and May 29, 2003. Procedures implemented by health authorities were investigated through review of official documents and discussions with public health officials.

The researchers found that healthcare worker training in use of personal protective equipment and management of patients with SARS and establishing fever clinics and designated SARS wards in hospitals predated the steepest decline in cases. During the outbreak, 30,178 persons were quarantined. Among 2,195 quarantined close contacts in 5 districts, the attac

Contact: David Daigle
JAMA and Archives Journals

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