Disaster management plans have traditionally been required to manage major traumatic events that create a large number of victims. Infectious diseases, whether they be natural (e.g. SARS [severe acute respiratory syndrome] and influenza) or the result of bioterrorism, have the potential to create a large influx of critically ill into our already strained hospital systems. With proper planning, hospitals, health care workers and our health care systems can be better prepared to deal with such an eventuality. This review explores the Toronto critical care experience of coping in the SARS outbreak disaster. Our health care system and, in particular, our critical care system were unprepared for this event, and as a result the impact that SARS had was worse than it could have been. Nonetheless, we were able to organize a response rapidly during the outbreak. By describing our successes and failures, we hope to help others to learn and avoid the problems we encountered as they develop their own disaster management plans in anticipation of similar future situations.
During severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) outbreak in Toronto, outpatient clinics at SickKids Hospital were closed to prevent further disease transmission. In response, a decision was made by the neonatal neuro-developmental follow up (NNFU) clinic staff to select patients with scheduled appointments to have a mail/telephone assessment using Ages and Stages Questionnaire (ASQ) or to postpone/skip their visit. The objective of this study was to compare the developmental assessment and its outcome in two groups of NNFU clinic patients, SARS versus non-SARS, over three standard clinic appointments.
We compared the diagnostic accuracy (identification of developmental delay), and patient management (referral for therapy or communication of a new diagnosis) of the strategies used during SARS, April/May 2003, to the standard assessment methods used for patients seen in April/May 2005 (non-SARS). In all cases data were obtained for 3 patient visits: before, during and after these 2 months and were compared using descriptive statistics.
There were 95 patients in the SARS group and 99 non-SARS patients. The gestational age, sex, entry diagnosis and age at the clinic visit was not different between the groups. The NNFU clinic staff mailed ASQ to 27 families during SARS, 17 (63%) were returned, and 8 of the 17 were then contacted by telephone. Criteria used to identify infants at risk selected for either mailed ASQ or phone interviews were not clearly defined in the patients' charts. There was a significant under identification of developmental delay during SARS (18% versus 45%). Of those who responded to the mailed questionnaire, referrals for therapy rates were similar to non-SARS group. The lost to follow up rate was 24% for the SARS group compared with 7% for non-SARS. There was no difference in the overall rate of developmental delay in the two groups as identified at the 'after' visit.
Poor advanced planning led to a haphazard assessment of patients during this infectious disease outbreak. Future pandemic plans should consider planning for outpatient care as well as in hospital management of patients.
Extraordinary infection control measures limited access to medical care in the Greater Toronto Area during the 2003 Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) outbreak. The objective of this study was to determine if the period of these infection control measures was associated with changes in overall population mortality due to causes other than SARS.
Observational study of death registry data, using Poisson regression and interrupted time-series analysis to examine all-cause mortality rates (excluding deaths due to SARS) before, during, and after the SARS outbreak. The population of Ontario was grouped into the Greater Toronto Area (N = 2.9 million) and the rest of Ontario (N = 9.3 million) based upon the level of restrictions on delivery of clinical services during the SARS outbreak.
There was no significant change in mortality in the Greater Toronto Area before, during, and after the period of the SARS outbreak in 2003 compared to the corresponding time periods in 2002 and 2001. The rate ratio for all-cause mortality during the SARS outbreak was 0.99 [95% Confidence Interval (CI) 0.93–1.06] compared to 2002 and 0.96 [95% CI 0.90–1.03] compared to 2001. An interrupted time series analysis found no significant change in mortality rates in the Greater Toronto Area associated with the period of the SARS outbreak.
Limitations on access to medical services during the 2003 SARS outbreak in Toronto had no observable impact on short-term population mortality. Effects on morbidity and long-term mortality were not assessed. Efforts to contain future infectious disease outbreaks due to influenza or other agents must consider effects on access to essential health care services.
During the 2003 severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) outbreak in Toronto, the potential introduction of SARS into the homeless population was a serious concern. Although no homeless individual in Toronto contracted SARS, the outbreak highlighted the need to develop an outbreak preparedness plan that accounts for unique issues related to homeless people. We conducted key informant interviews with homeless service providers and public health officials (n = 17) and identified challenges specific to the homeless population in the areas of communication, infection control, isolation and quarantine, and resource allocation. Planning for future outbreaks should take into account the need to (1) develop systems that enable rapid two-way communication between public health officials and homeless service providers, (2) ensure that homeless service providers have access to infection control supplies and staff training, (3) prepare for possible homeless shelter closures due to staff shortages or high attack rates among clients, and (4) plan for where and how clinically ill homeless individuals will be isolated and treated. The Toronto SARS experience provided insights that are relevant to response planning for future outbreaks in cities with substantial numbers of homeless individuals.
Contact tracing; Disease outbreaks; Homeless persons; Human; Influenza; Patient isolation; Quarantine; Severe acute respiratory syndrome.
To explore the impact of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) on a medical training program and to develop principles for professional training programs to consider in dealing with future, similar crises.
Qualitative interviews analyzed using grounded theory methodology.
University-affiliated hospitals in Toronto, Canada during the SARS outbreak in 2003.
Medical house staff who were allocated to a general internal medicine clinical teaching unit, infectious diseases consultation service, or intensive care unit.
Seventeen medical residents participated in this study. Participants described their experiences during the outbreak and highlighted several themes including concerns about their personal safety and about the negative impact of the outbreak on patient care, house staff education, and their emotional well-being.
The ability of residents to cope with the stress of the SARS outbreak was enhanced by the communication of relevant information and by the leadership of their supervisors and infection control officers. It is hoped that training programs for health care professionals will be able to implement these tenets of crisis management as they develop strategies for dealing with future health threats.
medical house staff; severe acute respiratory distress syndrome; training program; outbreak
An outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) began in Canada in February 2003. The initial diagnosis of SARS was based on clinical and epidemiological criteria. During the outbreak, molecular and serologic tests for the SARS-associated coronavirus (SARS-CoV) became available. However, without a “gold standard,” it was impossible to determine the usefulness of these tests. We describe how these tests were used during the first phase of the SARS outbreak in Toronto and offer some recommendations that may be useful if SARS returns.
We examined the results of all diagnostic laboratory tests used in 117 patients admitted to hospitals in Toronto who met the Health Canada criteria for suspect or probable SARS. Focusing on tests for SARS-CoV, we attempted to determine the optimal specimen types and timing of specimen collection.
Diagnostic test results for SARS-CoV were available for 110 of the 117 patients. SARS-CoV was detected by means of reverse-transcriptase polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) in at least one specimen in 59 (54.1%) of 109 patients. Serologic test results of convalescent samples were positive in 50 (96.2%) of 52 patients for whom paired serum samples were collected during the acute and convalescent phases of the illness. Of the 110 patients, 78 (70.9%) had specimens that tested positive by means of RT-PCR, serologic testing or both methods. The proportion of RT-PCR test results that were positive was similar between patients who met the criteria for suspect SARS (50.8%, 95% confidence interval [CI] 38.4%–63.2%) and those who met the criteria for probable SARS (58.0%, 95% CI 44.2%–70.7%). SARS-CoV was detected in nasopharyngeal swabs in 33 (32.4%) of 102 patients, in stool specimens in 19 (63.3%) of 30 patients, and in specimens from the lower respiratory tract in 10 (58.8%) of 17 patients.
These findings suggest that the rapid diagnostic tests in use at the time of the initial outbreak lack sufficient sensitivity to be used clinically to rule out SARS. As tests for SARS-CoV continue to be optimized, evaluation of the clinical presentation and elucidation of a contact history must remain the cornerstone of SARS diagnosis. In patients with SARS, specimens taken from the lower respiratory tract and stool samples test positive by means of RT-PCR more often than do samples taken from other areas.
In the 2003 Toronto SARS outbreak, SARS-CoV was transmitted in hospitals despite adherence to infection control procedures. Considerable controversy resulted regarding which procedures and behaviours were associated with the greatest risk of SARS-CoV transmission.
A retrospective cohort study was conducted to identify risk factors for transmission of SARS-CoV during intubation from laboratory confirmed SARS patients to HCWs involved in their care. All SARS patients requiring intubation during the Toronto outbreak were identified. All HCWs who provided care to intubated SARS patients during treatment or transportation and who entered a patient room or had direct patient contact from 24 hours before to 4 hours after intubation were eligible for this study. Data was collected on patients by chart review and on HCWs by interviewer-administered questionnaire. Generalized estimating equation (GEE) logistic regression models and classification and regression trees (CART) were used to identify risk factors for SARS transmission.
45 laboratory-confirmed intubated SARS patients were identified. Of the 697 HCWs involved in their care, 624 (90%) participated in the study. SARS-CoV was transmitted to 26 HCWs from 7 patients; 21 HCWs were infected by 3 patients. In multivariate GEE logistic regression models, presence in the room during fiberoptic intubation (OR = 2.79, p = .004) or ECG (OR = 3.52, p = .002), unprotected eye contact with secretions (OR = 7.34, p = .001), patient APACHE II score ≥20 (OR = 17.05, p = .009) and patient Pa02/Fi02 ratio ≤59 (OR = 8.65, p = .001) were associated with increased risk of transmission of SARS-CoV. In CART analyses, the four covariates which explained the greatest amount of variation in SARS-CoV transmission were covariates representing individual patients.
Close contact with the airway of severely ill patients and failure of infection control practices to prevent exposure to respiratory secretions were associated with transmission of SARS-CoV. Rates of transmission of SARS-CoV varied widely among patients.
International health organizations and officials are bracing for a pandemic. Although the 2003 severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) outbreak in Toronto did not reach such a level, it created a unique opportunity to identify the optimal use of the Internet to promote communication with the public and to preserve health services during an epidemic.
The aim of the study was to explore patients’ attitudes regarding the health services that might be provided through the Internet to supplement those traditionally available in the event of a future mass emergency situation.
We conducted “mask-to-mask” surveys of patients at three major teaching hospitals in Toronto during the second outbreak of SARS. Patients were surveyed at the hospital entrances and selected clinics. Descriptive statistics and logistic regression models were used for the analysis.
In total, 1019 of 1130 patients responded to the survey (90% overall response rate). With respect to Internet use, 70% (711/1019) used the Internet by themselves and 57% (578/1019) with the help of a friend or family member. Of the Internet users, 68% (485/711) had already searched the World Wide Web for health information, and 75% (533/711) were interested in communicating with health professionals using the Internet as part of their ongoing care. Internet users expressed interest in using the Web for the following reasons: to learn about their health condition through patient education materials (84%), to obtain information about the status of their clinic appointments (83%), to send feedback to the hospital about how to improve its services (77%), to access screening tools to help determine if they were potentially affected by the infectious agent responsible for the outbreak (77%), to renew prescriptions (75%), to consult with their health professional about nonurgent matters (75%), and to access laboratory test results (75%). Regression results showed that younger age, higher education, and English as a first language were predictors of patients’ interest in using Internet services in the event of an epidemic.
Most patients are willing and able to use the Internet as a means to maintain communication with the hospital during an outbreak of an infectious disease such as SARS. Hospitals should explore new ways to interact with the public, to provide relevant health information, and to ensure continuity of care when they are forced to restrict their services.
Severe acute respiratory syndrome; communicable diseases, emerging; information services; Internet; public health; questionnaires
Objective To explore issues of medical professionalism in the context of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), a new emerging health threat.
Design Qualitative interviews analysed with grounded theory methodology.
Setting University hospitals in Toronto, Canada, during the SARS outbreak in 2003.
Participants 14 staff physicians from divisions of infectious diseases, general internal medicine, and critical care medicine.
Results Of 14 attending physicians, four became ill during the outbreak. Participants described their experiences during the outbreak and highlighted several themes about values inherent to medical professionalism that arose during this crisis including the balance between care of patients and accepted personal risk, confidentiality, appropriate interactions between physicians and patients, ethical research conduct, and role modelling of professionalism for junior doctors.
Conclusion Despite concerns raised by professional societies about the erosion of professionalism, participants in this study amply demonstrated the necessary qualities during the recent healthcare crisis. However, there were several examples of strained professional behaviour witnessed by the participants and these examples highlight aspects of medical professionalism that medical educators and professional organisations should address in the future, including the balance between personal safety and duty of care.
Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) was introduced into Canada by a visitor to Hong Kong who returned to Toronto on Feb. 23, 2003. Transmission to a family member who was later admitted to a community hospital in Toronto led to a large nosocomial outbreak. In this report we summarize the preliminary results of the epidemiological investigation into the transmission of SARS between 128 cases associated with this hospital outbreak.
We collected epidemiologic data on 128 probable and suspect cases of SARS associated with the hospital outbreak, including those who became infected in hospital and the next generation of illness arising among their contacts. Incubation periods were calculated based on cases with a single known exposure. Transmission chains from the index family to hospital contacts and within the hospital were mapped. Attack rates were calculated for nurses in 3 hospital wards where transmission occurred.
The cases ranged in age from 21 months to 86 years; 60.2% were female. Seventeen deaths were reported (case-fatality rate 13.3%). Of the identified cases, 36.7% were hospital staff. Other cases were household or social contacts of SARS cases (29.6%), hospital patients (14.1%), visitors (14.1%) or other health care workers (5.5%). Of the 128 cases, 120 (93.8%) had documented contact with a SARS case or with a ward where there was a known SARS case. The remaining 8 cases without documented exposure are believed to have had exposure to an unidentified case and remain under investigation. The attack rates among nurses who worked in the emergency department, intensive care unit and coronary care unit ranged from 10.3% to 60.0%. Based on 42 of the 128 cases with a single known contact with a SARS case, the mean incubation period was 5 days (range 2 to 10 days).
Evidence to date suggests that SARS is a severe respiratory illness spread mainly by respiratory droplets. There has been no evidence of further transmission within the hospital after the elapse of 2 full incubation periods (20 days).
Restrictions on the nonurgent use of hospital services were imposed in March 2003 to control an outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) in Toronto, Ont. We describe the impact of these restrictions on health care utilization and suggest lessons for future epidemics.
We performed a retrospective population-based study of the Greater Toronto Area (hereafter referred to as Toronto) and unaffected comparison regions (Ottawa and London, Ont.) before, during and after the SARS outbreak (April 2001–March 2004). We determined the adjusted rates of hospital admissions, emergency department and outpatient visits, diagnostic testing and drug prescribing.
During the early and late SARS restriction periods, the rate of overall and medical admissions decreased by 10%–12% in Toronto; there was no change in the comparison regions. The rate of elective surgery in Toronto fell by 22% and 15% during the early and late restriction periods respectively and by 8% in the comparison regions. The admission rates for urgent surgery remained unchanged in all regions; those for some acute serious medical conditions decreased by 15%–21%. The rates of elective cardiac procedures declined by up to 66% in Toronto and by 71% in the comparison regions; the rates of urgent and semi-urgent procedures declined little or increased. High-acuity visits to emergency departments fell by 37% in Toronto, and inter-hospital patient transfers fell by 44% in the circum-Toronto area. Drug prescribing and primary care visits were unchanged in all regions.
The restrictions achieved modest reductions in overall hospital admissions and substantial reductions in the use of elective services. Brief reductions occurred in admissions for some acute serious conditions, high-acuity visits to emergency departments and inter-hospital patient transfers suggesting that access to care for some potentially seriously ill patients was affected.
The outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) in the first half of 2003 in Canada was unprecedented in several respects. Understanding the psychological impact of the outbreak on healthcare workers, especially those in hospitals, is important in planning for future outbreaks of emerging infectious diseases. This review draws upon qualitative and quantitative studies of the SARS outbreak in Toronto to outline the factors that contributed to healthcare workers' experiencing the outbreak as a psychological trauma. Overall, it is estimated that a high degree of distress was experienced by 29-35% of hospital workers. Three categories of contributory factors were identified. Relevant contextual factors were being a nurse, having contact with SARS patients and having children. Contributing attitudinal factors and processes were experiencing job stress, perceiving stigmatization, coping by avoiding crowds and colleagues, and feeling scrutinized. Pre-existing trait factors also contributed to vulnerability. Lessons learned from the outbreak include: (i) that effort is required to mitigate the psychological impact of infection control procedures, especially the interpersonal isolation that these procedures promote; (ii) that effective risk communication is a priority early in an outbreak; (iii) that healthcare workers may have a role in influencing patterns of media coverage that increase or decrease morale; (iv) that healthcare workers benefit from resources that facilitate reflection on the effects of extraordinary stressors; and (v) that healthcare workers benefit from practical interventions that demonstrate tangible support from institutions.
An outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) was detected in Singapore at the beginning of March 2003. The outbreak, initiated by a traveler to Hong Kong in late February 2003, led to sequential spread of SARS to three major acute care hospitals in Singapore. The critical factor in containing this outbreak was early detection and complete assessment of movements and follow-up of patients, healthcare workers, and visitors who were contacts. Visitor records were important in helping identify exposed persons who could carry the infection into the community. In the three hospital outbreaks, three different containment strategies were used to contain spread of infection: closing an entire hospital, removing all potentially infected persons to a dedicated SARS hospital, and managing exposed persons in place. On the basis of this experience, if a nosocomial outbreak is detected late, a hospital may need to be closed in order to contain spread of the disease. Outbreaks detected early can be managed by either removing all exposed persons to a designated location or isolating and managing them in place.
coronavirus; cross infections; hospital; infection control; nosocomial infections; severe acute respiratory syndrome; Singapore
In March of 2003, an outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) occurred in Northern Vietnam. This outbreak began when a traveler arriving from Hong Kong sought medical care at a small hospital (Hospital A) in Hanoi, initiating a serious and substantial transmission event within the hospital, and subsequent limited spread within the community.
We surveyed Hospital A personnel for exposure to the index patient and for symptoms of disease during the outbreak. Additionally, serum specimens were collected and assayed for antibody to SARS-associated coronavirus (SARS-CoV) antibody and job-specific attack rates were calculated. A nested case-control analysis was performed to assess risk factors for acquiring SARS-CoV infection.
One hundred and fifty-three of 193 (79.3%) clinical and non-clinical staff consented to participate. Excluding job categories with <3 workers, the highest SARS attack rates occurred among nurses who worked in the outpatient and inpatient general wards (57.1, 47.4%, respectively). Nurses assigned to the operating room/intensive care unit, experienced the lowest attack rates (7.1%) among all clinical staff. Serologic evidence of SARS-CoV infection was detected in 4 individuals, including 2 non-clinical workers, who had not previously been identified as SARS cases; none reported having had fever or cough. Entering the index patient's room and having seen (viewed) the patient were the behaviors associated with highest risk for infection by univariate analysis (odds ratios 20.0, 14.0; 95% confidence intervals 4.1–97.1, 3.6–55.3, respectively).
This study highlights job categories and activities associated with increased risk for SARS-CoV infection and demonstrates that a broad diversity of hospital workers may be vulnerable during an outbreak. These findings may help guide recommendations for the protection of vulnerable occupational groups and may have implications for other respiratory infections such as influenza.
The outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) in Toronto, which began on Mar. 7, 2003, resulted in extraordinary public health and infection control measures. We aimed to describe the psychological and occupational impact of this event within a large hospital in the first 4 weeks of the outbreak and the subsequent administrative and mental health response.
Two principal authors met with core team members and mental health care providers at Mount Sinai Hospital, Toronto, to compile retrospectively descriptions of the experiences of staff and patients based on informal observation. All authors reviewed and analyzed the descriptions in an iterative process between Apr. 3 and Apr. 13, 2003.
In a 4-week period, 19 individuals developed SARS, including 11 health care workers. The hospital's response included establishing a leadership command team and a SARS isolation unit, implementing mental health support interventions for patients and staff, overcoming problems with logistics and communication, and overcoming resistance to directives. Patients with SARS reported fear, loneliness, boredom and anger, and they worried about the effects of quarantine and contagion on family members and friends. They experienced anxiety about fever and the effects of insomnia. Staff were adversely affected by fear of contagion and of infecting family, friends and colleagues. Caring for health care workers as patients and colleagues was emotionally difficult. Uncertainty and stigmatization were prominent themes for both staff and patients.
The hospital's response required clear communication, sensitivity to individual responses to stress, collaboration between disciplines, authoritative leadership and provision of relevant support. The emotional and behavioural reactions of patients and staff are understood to be a normal, adaptive response to stress in the face of an overwhelming event.
Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) is continuing to spread around the world. All hospitals must be prepared to care for patients with SARS. Thus, it is important to understand the transmission of this disease in hospitals and to evaluate methods for its containment in health care institutions. We describe how we cared for the first 2 patients with SARS admitted to our 419-bed community hospital in Richmond Hill, Ont., and the response to a SARS outbreak within our institution.
We collected clinical and epidemiological data about patients and health care workers at our institution who during a 13-day period had a potential unprotected exposure to 2 patients whose signs and symptoms were subsequently identified as meeting the case definition for probable SARS. The index case at our hospital was a patient who was transferred to our intensive care unit (ICU) from a referral hospital on Mar. 16, 2003, where he had been in close proximity to the son of the individual with the first reported case of SARS in Toronto. After 13 days in the ICU, a diagnosis of probable SARS was reached for our index case. Immediately upon diagnosis of our index case, respiratory isolation and barrier precautions were instituted throughout our hospital and maintained for a period of 10 days, which is the estimated maximum incubation period reported for this disease. Aggressive surveillance measures among hospital staff, patients and visitors were also maintained during this time.
During the surveillance period, 15 individuals (10 hospital staff, 3 patients and 2 visitors) were identified as meeting the case definition for probable or suspected SARS, in addition to our index case. All but 1 individual had had direct contact with a symptomatic patient with SARS during the period of unprotected exposure. No additional cases were identified after infection control precautions had been implemented for 8 days. No cases of secondary transmission were identified in the 21 days following the implementation of these precautions at our institution.
SARS can easily be spread by direct personal contact in the hospital setting. We found that the implementation of aggressive infection control measures is effective in preventing further transmission of this disease.
Cellular localization of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus (SARS-CoV) in the lungs of patients with SARS is important in confirming the etiological association of the virus with disease as well as in understanding the pathogenesis of the disease. To our knowledge, there have been no comprehensive studies investigating viral infection at the cellular level in humans.
Methods and Findings
We collected the largest series of fatal cases of SARS with autopsy material to date by merging the pathological material from two regions involved in the 2003 worldwide SARS outbreak in Hong Kong, China, and Toronto, Canada. We developed a monoclonal antibody against the SARS-CoV nucleoprotein and used it together with in situ hybridization (ISH) to analyze the autopsy lung tissues of 32 patients with SARS from Hong Kong and Toronto. We compared the results of these assays with the pulmonary pathologies and the clinical course of illness for each patient. SARS-CoV nucleoprotein and RNA were detected by immunohistochemistry and ISH, respectively, primarily in alveolar pneumocytes and, less frequently, in macrophages. Such localization was detected in four of the seven patients who died within two weeks of illness onset, and in none of the 25 patients who died later than two weeks after symptom onset.
The pulmonary alveolar epithelium is the chief target of SARS-CoV, with macrophages infected subsequently. Viral replication appears to be limited to the first two weeks after symptom onset, with little evidence of continued widespread replication after this period. If antiviral therapy is considered for future treatment, it should be focused on this two-week period of acute clinical disease.
The SARS coronavirus targets primarily the pulmonary alveolar epithelium. Viral replication seems limited to the first two weeks after symptom onset and restricted to the lungs.
A Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) outbreak occurred in Singapore from February to May 2003. A high vigilance for the disease, frequent and regular temperature monitoring, early case identification and isolation of patients, as well as tracing and home quarantine of contacts, played major roles in controlling the outbreak. Hospitals were dedicated to the screening and treatment of SARS patients. Within and between hospitals, movement by healthcare workers, patients and visitors were restricted, as was the number of hospital visitors. Staff education and audits of infection control practices also featured prominently.
To prevent cross-border transmission, incoming travellers from SARS affected areas had to complete health declaration cards. They, as well as all outgoing travellers from Singapore, were monitored for fever. In the meantime, the public was urged to refrain from travelling to SARS affected regions.
Containment elements targeting the community included school closure, public education on good hygiene and readily accessible public information.
In response to a laboratory acquired SARS infection, laboratories were audited, and directives issued on the mandatory use of biosafety level 3 laboratories for SARS virus culture, and compliance of laboratory workers to biosafety guidelines.
outbreak control; SARS; patient isolation; quarantine; contact tracing
The healthcare setting was important in the early spread of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) in both Toronto and Taiwan. Healthcare workers, patients, and visitors were at increased risk for infection. Nonetheless, the ability of individual SARS patients to transmit disease was quite variable. Unrecognized SARS case-patients were a primary source of transmission and early detection and intervention were important to limit spread. Strict adherence to infection control precautions was essential in containing outbreaks. In addition, grouping patients into cohorts and limiting access to SARS patients minimized exposure opportunities. Given the difficulty in implementing several of these measures, controls were frequently adapted to the acuity of SARS care and level of transmission within facilities. Although these conclusions are based only on a retrospective analysis of events, applying the experiences of Toronto and Taiwan to SARS preparedness planning efforts will likely minimize future transmission within healthcare facilities.
severe acute respiratory syndrome; infection control; delivery of healthcare
Optimal management of febrile respiratory illnesses during a hypothetical SARS outbreak varies depending on a number of conditions, but increasing influenza vaccination rates would save money and lives.
Since the World Health Organization declared the global outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) contained in July 2003, new cases have periodically reemerged in Asia. This situation has placed hospitals and health officials worldwide on heightened alert. In a future outbreak, rapidly and accurately distinguishing SARS from other common febrile respiratory illnesses (FRIs) could be difficult. We constructed a decision-analysis model to identify the most efficient strategies for managing undifferentiated FRIs within a hypothetical SARS outbreak in New York City during the season of respiratory infections. If establishing reliable epidemiologic links were not possible, societal costs would exceed $2.0 billion per month. SARS testing with existing polymerase chain reaction assays would have harmful public health and economic consequences if SARS made up <0.1% of circulating FRIs. Increasing influenza vaccination rates among the general population before the onset of respiratory season would save both money and lives.
Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome; Influenza-Like-Illness; Influenza Vaccination; Mass Screening; Cost-Benefit Analysis; Human; perspective
This study aimed to determine the incidence of psychiatric disorders among health care workers in Toronto in the one- to two-year period after the 2003 outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and to test predicted risk factors.
New-onset episodes of psychiatric disorders were assessed among 139 health care workers by using the Structured Clinical Interview for DSM-IV and the Clinician-Administered PTSD Scale. Past history of psychiatric illness, years of health care experience, and the perception of adequate training and support were tested as predictors of the incidence of new-onset episodes psychiatric disorders after the SARS outbreak.
The lifetime prevalence of any depressive, anxiety, or substance use diagnosis was 30%. Only one health care worker who identified the SARS experience as a traumatic event was diagnosed as having PTSD. New episodes of psychiatric disorders occurred among seven health care workers (5%). New episodes of psychiatric disorders were directly associated with a history of having a psychiatric disorder before the SARS outbreak (p=.02) and inversely associated with years of health care experience (p=.03) and the perceived adequacy of training and support (p=.03).
Incidence of new episodes of psychiatric disorders after the SARS outbreak were similar to or lower than community incidence rates, which may indicate the resilience of health care workers who continued to work in hospitals one to two years after the SARS outbreak. In preparation for future events, such as pandemic influenza, training and support may bolster the resilience of health care workers who are at higher risk by virtue of their psychiatric history and fewer years of health care experience.
PMID: 18182545 CAMSID: cams1445
The Greater Toronto Area (GTA) was considered a “hot zone” for severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) in 2003. In accordance with mandated city-wide infection control measures, the Hospital for Sick Children (HSC) drastically reduced all services while maintaining a fully operational emergency department. Because of the GTA health service suspensions and the overlap of SARS-like symptoms with many common childhood illnesses, this introduced the potential for a change in the volumes of patients visiting the emergency department of the only regional tertiary care children's hospital.
We compared HSC emergency department patient volumes, admission rates and length of stay in the emergency department in the baseline years of 2000–2002 (non-SARS years) with those in 2003 (SARS year). The data from the prior years were modeled as a time series. Using an interrupted time series analysis, we compared the 2003 data for the periods before, during and after the SARS periods with the modeled data for significant differences in the 3 aforementioned outcomes of interest.
Compared with the 2000–2002 data, we found no differences in visits, admission rates or length of stay in the pre-SARS period in 2003. There were significant decreases in visits and length of stay (p < 0.001) and increases in admission rates (p < 0.001) during the periods in 2003 when there were new and active cases of SARS in the GTA. All 3 outcomes returned to expected estimates coincident with the absence of SARS cases from September to December 2003.
During the SARS outbreak in the GTA, the HSC emergency department experienced significantly reduced volumes of patients with low-acuity complaints. This gives insight into utilization rates of a pediatric emergency department during a time when there was additional perceived risk in using emergency department services and provides a foundation for emergency department preparedness policies for SARS-like public health emergencies.
During the recent global outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), thousands of patients received treatments of uncertain efficacy and known toxicity such as ribavirin and corticosteroids. Despite this, no controlled clinical trials assessing the efficacy of these agents were conducted. If a second global SARS outbreak occurred, clinicians would not have controlled data on which to base therapeutic decisions. We discuss the unique methodologic and logistical challenges faced by researchers who attempt to conduct controlled trials of therapeutic agents during an outbreak of a novel or unknown infectious pathogen. We draw upon our own experience in attempting to conduct a randomized controlled trial (trial) of ribavirin therapy for SARS and discuss the lessons learned. Strategies to facilitate future clinical trials during outbreaks of unknown or novel pathogens are also presented.
Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome; randomized controlled trials; disease outbreaks
The objective of this study was to explore the use and perceptions of a local Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) Extranet and its potential to support future information and communication applications. The SARS Extranet was a single, managed electronic and limited access system to manage local, provincial and other SARS control information.
During July, 2003, a web-based and paper-based survey was conducted with 53 SARS Steering Committee members in Hamilton. It assessed the use and perceptions of the Extranet that had been built to support the committee during the SARS outbreak. Before distribution, the survey was user-tested based on a think-aloud protocol, and revisions were made. Quantitative and qualitative questions were asked related to frequency of use of the Extranet, perceived overall usefulness of the resource, rationale for use, potential barriers, strengths and limitations, and potential future uses of the Extranet.
The response rate was 69.4% (n = 34). Of all respondents, 30 (88.2%) reported that they had visited the site, and rated it highly overall (mean = 4.0; 1 = low to 5 = high). However, the site was rated 3.4 compared with other communications strategies used during the outbreak. Almost half of all respondents (44.1%) visited the site at least once every few days. The two most common reasons the 30 respondents visited the Extranet were to access SARS Steering Committee minutes (63.3%) and to access Hamilton medical advisories (53.3%). The most commonly cited potential future uses for the Extranet were the sending of private emails to public health experts (63.3%), and surveillance (63.3%). No one encountered personal barriers in his or her use of the site, but several mentioned that time and duplication of email information were challenges.
Despite higher rankings of various communication strategies during the SARS outbreak, such as email, meetings, teleconferences, and other web sites, users generally perceived a local Extranet as a useful support for the dissemination of local information during public health emergencies.
Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) is frequently complicated with acute respiratory failure. In this article, we aim to focus on the management of the subgroup of SARS patients who are critically ill. Most SARS patients would require high flow oxygen supplementation, 20–30% required intensive care unit (ICU) or high dependency care, and 13–26% developed acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS). In some of these patients, the clinical course can progress relentlessly to septic shock and/or multiple organ dysfunction syndrome (MODS). The management of critically ill SARS patients requires timely institution of pharmacotherapy where applicable and supportive treatment (oxygen therapy, noninvasive and invasive ventilation). Superimposed bacterial and other opportunistic infections are common, especially in those treated with mechanical ventilation. Subcutaneous emphysema, pneumothoraces and pneumomediastinum may arise spontaneously or as a result of positive ventilatory assistance. Older age is a consistently a poor prognostic factor. Appropriate use of personal protection equipment and adherence to infection control measures is mandatory for effective infection control. Much of the knowledge about the clinical aspects of SARS is based on retrospective observational data and randomized-controlled trials are required for confirmation. Physicians and scientists all over the world should collaborate to study this condition which may potentially threaten human existence.
SARS; severe acute respiratory syndrome; critically ill patients; management; treatment and control.