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SARS Fast Facts

CNN Editorial Research

Here’s some background information about SARS, severe acute respiratory syndrome. Since 2004, there have been no known cases of SARS reported anywhere in the world.

General Information

SARS is an acute viral respiratory illness brought on by a coronavirus.

Symptoms include fever, cough, severe headache, dizziness and other flu-like complaints.

The illness presents as an atypical pneumonia that does not respond to standard treatments.

There were 8,098 confirmed cases of SARS from November 2002 to July 2003, with 774 deaths.


November 16, 2002 What will become known as SARS is first reported in Foshan, China.

November 2002-February 2003 Five people die and more than 300 are reported ill of SARS in Guangdong province, China.

February 15-22, 2003 Liu Jianlun develops SARS symptoms on a trip from Huang Xingchu in the Guangdong province to visit family in Hong Kong. He is considered patient zero, or the first person to die of the disease. He infects people at his hotel and his family. He is hospitalized and dies, as does one member of his family.

March 15, 2003 The World Health Organization (WHO) issues an emergency travel advisory about the illness, calling it a “global threat.”

March 27, 2003 Hong Kong officials have quarantined more than 1,000 people and schools close in Singapore.

March 29, 2003 – Dr. Carlo Urbani, the WHO physician who identified SARS in patient zero, dies from the virus in Bangkok.

April 1, 2003 An American Airlines flight from Tokyo is quarantined at Mineta San Jose Airport. Three passengers are transported to an area hospital for evaluation of SARS and later released.

April 4, 2003 By executive order, President George W. Bush has SARS added to the list of communicable diseases for which a person can be quarantined.

April 14, 2003 Working independently, American and Canadian scientists announce they have sequenced the genome thought to be the cause of SARS.

April 20, 2003 China cancels a weeklong national holiday celebration as Beijing’s SARS cases rise from 37 to 339 in less than a week. A wholesale vegetable market in Singapore closes and all 2,400 people are quarantined.

April 22, 2003 The CDC issues a health alert for travelers in Toronto.

April 23, 2003 Travel warnings and advisories for Shangxi province, Beijing and Toronto have been increased and those for Hong Kong and Guangdong province have been extended.

April 28, 2003 WHO lists Vietnam as the first nation to contain the SARS outbreak.

April 29, 2003 WHO announces it will lift its SARS advisory against travel to Toronto.

May 14, 2003 WHO removes Canada from its list of countries where local transmission of the disease is occurring.

May 23, 2003 WHO removes its travel warnings against Hong Kong and the province of Guangdong in southern China.

May 28, 2003 Russia confirms first case of SARS, in a town bordering China.

May 29, 2003 Canada has 29 active cases of SARS and more than 7,000 under home quarantine.

June 17, 2003 The first major conference on SARS opens in Malaysia, with more than 1,000 scientists and clinicians in attendance. WHO lifts the travel advisory to Taiwan.

June 24, 2003 WHO lifts its SARS travel advisory on Beijing.

July 2, 2003 WHO removes Toronto from its list of areas with recent local transmission of SARS.

July 5, 2003 WHO announces containment of SARS.

December 17, 2003 Taiwanese Department of Health reports a case of SARS.

January 5, 2004 Civet cats are linked through genetic testing to the outbreak of SARS, and the Chinese Health Ministry orders the killing of thousands of the mammals. A man in Guangdong province in China has a confirmed case of SARS

April 23, 2004 The Chinese Health Ministry reports two confirmed cases of SARS, one in the eastern province of Anhui and the other in the capital, Beijing. Two other possible cases are being investigated.

April 25, 2004 The Chinese Health Ministry identifies two new cases of SARS in Beijing.

April 29, 2004 China’s Ministry of Health reports two new confirmed SARS cases in Beijing, bringing the total number of possible or confirmed cases there to nine.

April 30, 2004 China’s Ministry of Health confirms that a woman who died last week in Anhui province had SARS, the first death related to the illness this year.

May 18, 2004 The last reported outbreak of SARS is contained in China.

October 5, 2012 – The CDC’s Select Agent Program declares SARS to be a select agent, “a bacterium, virus or toxin that has the potential to pose a severe threat to public health and safety.”

December 2017 – Chinese researchers locate a population of bats in a Yunnan province cave infected with SARS-related coronaviruses. The newly-discovered strains contain the genetic building blocks of the strain that triggered the SARS outbreak.

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