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The unprecedented epidemic of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) struck Hong Kong in March to May 2003. From 11 March to 20 May 2003, a total of 1718 SARS cases had been identified (fig 1).1 During the same period, 253 people had died of the disease. The average death rate was estimated to be about 15%. Before the occurrence of the disease in Hong Kong, an intense outbreak of the disease with acute respiratory syndrome later termed as atypical pneumonia was reported in the nearby Guangdong Province in mainland China. The outbreak in Guangdong was centred in the provincial capital of Guangzhou and its nearby Pearl River Delta area. The outbreak started in November 2002 and reached its peak in March 2003. Up to 17 May 2003, Guangdong recorded a total of 1514 cases and 56 deaths.2
At the beginning of March 2003, a professor from Guangzhou who had been treating atypical pneumonia cases in a Guangzhou Hospital visited Hong Kong and stayed at a hotel in the Kowloon District in Hong Kong. He was admitted to a local hospital with symptoms of acute respiratory disease. He later died of the disease. Arising from this index case, seven other people who stayed in the same floor of the hotel were affected with SARS. These included three visitors from Singapore, one visitor from Vietnam, two visitors from Canada, and one local person. All of them developed SARS and two people died of the disease.3
The local infected person later was admitted into another public hospital known as the Prince of Wales Hospital at Shatin. This person was responsible for the spread of the disease at Prince of Wales Hospital resulting in over 100 medical and nursing personnel …
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