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Modelling potential responses to severe acute respiratory syndrome in Japan: the role of initial attack size, precaution, and quarantine
  1. H Nishiura1,2,
  2. K Patanarapelert2,
  3. M Sriprom2,
  4. W Sarakorn2,
  5. S Sriyab2,
  6. I Ming Tang2,3
  1. 1Bangkok School of Tropical Medicine, Mahidol University, Thailand
  2. 2Department of Mathematics, Faculty of Science, Mahidol University
  3. 3Institute of Science and Technology for Research and Development, Mahidol University
  1. Correspondence to:
 Dr H Nishiura
 Department of Mathematics, Faculty of Science, Mahidol University, Rama 6 Road, Bangkok 10400, Thailand;


Background: There has been an outbreak of the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) worldwide. With the use of detailed epidemiological data from other countries, this article describes the possible reason for the SARS epidemic not appearing in Japan, and simulates the impact of different control strategies that can break the transmission cycle of SARS associated coronavirus.

Method: Mathematical modelling is used for predicting the epidemiological outcome and simultaneously for evaluating the effect of interventions on SARS. The study estimates the initial attack size that would result in failed invasion. Three different interventions have been incorporated into the public health response policies; precautionary public health measures, isolation of infected people, and quarantine of exposed humans.

Results: The maximum number of humans newly infected could be roughly estimated on the basis of the initial attack size, using simple formulas. It is seen that the introduction of only a few cases into certain communities would not lead easily to an epidemic. The possible trajectories of SARS epidemic depend on the levels of public health interventions as quarantine and precautionary public health measures greatly affected the transmissibility of the disease. It is shown that there exist threshold levels of interventions at which the SARS epidemic settles down.

Conclusion: Initial attack size is one of the determinants of whether SARS can successfully invade the community or not. Two of the most effective policy procedures to prevent new infections would be to apply stringent precautionary measures and to impose quicker and more effective quarantine of the exposed populace.

  • severe acute respiratory syndrome
  • SARS
  • mathematical modelling
  • initial attack size

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  • Funding: none.

  • Conflicts of interest: none declared.

  • This work was presented in part at the SARS e-Conference by World Health Risk Management Center, October 2003 held on internet.

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