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.
To determine factors that predispose or protect healthcare workers from severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), we conducted a retrospective cohort study among 43 nurses who worked in two Toronto critical care units with SARS patients. Eight of 32 nurses who entered a SARS patient’s room were infected. The probability of SARS infection was 6% per shift worked. Assisting during intubation, suctioning before intubation, and manipulating the oxygen mask were high-risk activities. Consistently wearing a mask (either surgical or particulate respirator type N95) while caring for a SARS patient was protective for the nurses, and consistent use of the N95 mask was more protective than not wearing a mask. Risk was reduced by consistent use of a surgical mask, but not significantly. Risk was lower with consistent use of a N95 mask than with consistent use of a surgical mask. We conclude that activities related to intubation increase SARS risk and use of a mask (particularly a N95 mask) is protective.
SARS; severe acute respiratory syndrome; critical care; risk factors; respiratory protective devices; masks; intubation; nursing; infection control
Infection of healthcare workers with the severe acute respiratory syndrome–associated coronavirus (SARS-CoV) is thought to occur primarily by either contact or large respiratory droplet transmission. However, infrequent healthcare worker infections occurred despite the use of contact and droplet precautions, particularly during certain aerosol-generating medical procedures. We investigated a possible cluster of SARS-CoV infections in healthcare workers who used contact and droplet precautions during attempted cardiopulmonary resuscitation of a SARS patient. Unlike previously reported instances of transmission during aerosol-generating procedures, the index case-patient was unresponsive, and the intubation procedure was performed quickly and without difficulty. However, before intubation, the patient was ventilated with a bag-valve-mask that may have contributed to aerosolization of SARS-CoV. On the basis of the results of this investigation and previous reports of SARS transmission during aerosol-generating procedures, a systematic approach to the problem is outlined, including the use of the following: 1) administrative controls, 2) environmental engineering controls, 3) personal protective equipment, and 4) quality control.
SARS virus; resuscitation; occupational health; infection control; transmission; healthcare worker
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
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.
TOC Summary Line: Healthcare workers in hospitals affected by SARS experience increased psychological stress 1–2 years after the outbreak.
Healthcare workers (HCWs) found the 2003 outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) to be stressful, but the long-term impact is not known. From 13 to 26 months after the SARS outbreak, 769 HCWs at 9 Toronto hospitals that treated SARS patients and 4 Hamilton hospitals that did not treat SARS patients completed a survey of several adverse outcomes. Toronto HCWs reported significantly higher levels of burnout (p = 0.019), psychological distress (p<0.001), and posttraumatic stress (p<0.001). Toronto workers were more likely to have reduced patient contact and work hours and to report behavioral consequences of stress. Variance in adverse outcomes was explained by a protective effect of the perceived adequacy of training and support and by a provocative effect of maladaptive coping style and other individual factors. The results reinforce the value of effective staff support and training in preparation for future outbreaks.
Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome; Stress, Psychological; Health Personnel; Stress, Traumatic; Burnout, Professional, research
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 SARS outbreak in 2003 pushed Toronto's health care system to its limits. Staffing shortages, transmission of SARS within the ICU, and the influx of critically ill SARS patients were some unique challenges to the delivery of critical care. Communication strategies were a key component in the critical care response to SARS. Regular teleconference calls, web-based training and education, and the rapid coordination of research studies were some of the initiatives developed within the Toronto critical care community during the SARS outbreak. Other critical care communities should consider their communication strategies in advance of similar events.
communication; critical care; disease outbreaks; SARS
Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) caused the first epidemic of the 21st century and continues to threaten the global community.
To assess the incidence of coinfection in patients confirmed to have SARS-associated coronavirus (SARS-CoV) infection, and thus, to determine the risk of ruling out SARS by ruling in another diagnosis.
The present report is a retrospective study evaluating the incidence and impact of laboratory-confirmed SARS-CoV and other pulmonary pathogens in 117 patients. These patients were evaluated in a Toronto, Ontario, community hospital identified as the epicentre for the second SARS outbreak.
Coinfection with other pulmonary pathogens occured in patients with SARS. Seventy-three per cent of the patient population evaluated had laboratory-confirmed SARS-CoV infection. Serology showing acute or recent Chlamydophila pneumoniae or Mycoplasma pneumoniae infection revealed an incidence of 30% and 9%, respectively, in those with SARS. These rates are similar to previously published studies on coinfection in pneumonia. All nucleic acid diagnostic assays were negative for C pneumoniae and M pneumoniae in respiratory samples from patients with SARS having serological evidence for these atypical pathogens.
Diagnostic assays for well-recognized pulmonary pathogens have limitations, and ruling out SARS-CoV by ruling in another pulmonary pathogen carries significant risk. Despite positive serology for atypical pathogens, in a setting where clinical suspicion for SARS is high, specific tests for SARS should be performed to confirm or exclude a diagnosis.
Coinfection; Coronavirus; Epidemic; Pneumonia; SARS
Despite the use of a series of preventive measures, a high incidence of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) was observed among health care workers (HCWs) during the SARS epidemic. This study aimed to determine which preventive measures may have been effective in protecting HCWs from infection, and which were not effective.
A retrospective study was performed among 758 'frontline' health care workers who cared for SARS patients at the Second Affiliated Hospital and the Third Affiliated Hospital of Sun Yat-sen University. The HCWs with IgG against SARS and those without IgG against SARS were respectively defined as the "case group" and the "control group", and logistic regression was conducted to explore the risk factors for SARS infection in HCWs.
After adjusting for age, gender, marital status, educational level, professional title, and the department in which an individual worked, the results of a multivariate logistic regression analysis indicated that incidence of SARS among HCWs was significantly and positively associated with: performing tracheal intubations for SARS patients, methods used for air ventilation in wards, avoiding face-to-face interaction with SARS patients, the number of pairs of gloves worn by HCWs, and caring for serious SARS cases.
Some measures, particularly good air ventilation in SARS wards, may be effective in minimizing or preventing SARS transmission among HCWs in hospitals.
Quarantine for SARS during the 2003 Taiwan outbreak expedited case detection, thereby indirectly preventing infections.
During the 2003 outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) in Taiwan, >150,000 persons were quarantined, 24 of whom were later found to have laboratory-confirmed SARS-coronavirus (SARS-CoV) infection. Since no evidence exists that SARS-CoV is infective before the onset of symptoms and the quarantined persons were exposed but not symptomatic, we thought the quarantine's effectiveness should be investigated. Using the Taiwan quarantine data, we found that the onset-to-diagnosis time of previously quarantined confirmed case-patients was significantly shortened compared to that for those who had not been quarantined. Thus, quarantine for SARS in Taiwan screened potentially infective persons for swift diagnosis and hospitalization after onset, thereby indirectly reducing infections. Full-scale quarantine measures implemented on April 28 led to a significant improvement in onset-to-diagnosis time of all SARS patients, regardless of previous quarantine status. We discuss the temporal effects of quarantine measures and other interventions on detection and isolation as well as the potential usefulness of quarantine in faster identification of persons with SARS and in improving isolation measures.
SARS; emerging infectious disease; quarantine; intervention; Taiwan; research
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
Viruses of the family Coronaviridae have recently emerged through zoonotic transmission to become serious human pathogens. The pathogenic agent responsible for severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), the SARS coronavirus (SARS-CoV), is a member of this large family of positive-strand RNA viruses that cause a spectrum of disease in humans, other mammals, and birds. Since the publicized outbreaks of SARS in China and Canada in 2002-2003, significant efforts successfully identified the causative agent, host cell receptor(s), and many of the pathogenic mechanisms underlying SARS. With this greater understanding of SARS-CoV biology, many researchers have sought to identify agents for the treatment of SARS. Here we report the utility of the potent antiviral protein griffithsin (GRFT) in the prevention of SARS-CoV infection both in vitro and in vivo. We also show that GRFT specifically binds to the SARS-CoV spike glycoprotein and inhibits viral entry. In addition, we report the activity of GRFT against a variety of additional coronaviruses that infect humans, other mammals, and birds. Finally, we show that GRFT treatment has a positive effect on morbidity and mortality in a lethal infection model using a mouse-adapted SARS-CoV and also specifically inhibits deleterious aspects of the host immunological response to SARS infection in mammals.
Healthcare workers accounted for a large proportion of persons with severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) during the worldwide epidemic of early 2003. We conducted an investigation of healthcare workers exposed to laboratory-confirmed SARS patients in the United States to evaluate infection-control practices and possible SARS-associated coronavirus (SARS-CoV) transmission. We identified 110 healthcare workers with exposure within droplet range (i.e., 3 feet) to six SARS-CoV–positive patients. Forty-five healthcare workers had exposure without any mask use, 72 had exposure without eye protection, and 40 reported direct skin-to-skin contact. Potential droplet- and aerosol-generating procedures were infrequent: 5% of healthcare workers manipulated a patient’s airway, and 4% administered aerosolized medication. Despite numerous unprotected exposures, there was no serologic evidence of healthcare-related SARS-CoV transmission. Lack of transmission in the United States may be related to the relative absence of high-risk procedures or patients, factors that may place healthcare workers at higher risk for infection.
severe acute respiratory distress syndrome; healthcare workers; nosocomial; transmission
Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) is caused by a novel and highly infectious virus named SARS coronavirus (SARS-CoV). Among the serological tests currently available for the detection of SARS-CoV, a whole-virus-based immunofluorescence assay (IFA) was considered one of the most sensitive assays and served as a “gold standard” during the SARS epidemic in Singapore in 2003. However, the need to manipulate live SARS-CoV in the traditional IFA limits its wide application due to the requirement for a biosafety level 3 laboratory and the risk of laboratory infection. Previously, we have identified two immunodominant epitopes, named N195 and Sc, in the two major structural proteins, the N and S proteins, of SARS-CoV (Q. He, K. H. Chong, H. H. Chng, B. Leung, A. E. Ling, T. Wei, S. W. Chan, E. E. Ooi, and J. Kwang, Clin. Diagn. Lab. Immunol., 11:417-422, 2004; L. Lu, I. Manopo, B. P. Leung, H. H. Chng, A. E. Ling, L. L. Chee, E. E. Ooi, S. W. Chan, and J. Kwang, J. Clin. Microbiol. 42:1570-1576, 2004). In the present study, the N195-Sc fusion protein was highly expressed in insect (Sf9) cells infected with a recombinant baculovirus bearing the hybrid gene under the control of a polyhedrin promoter. An IFA based on Sf9 cells producing the fusion protein was standardized with 23 serum samples from patients with SARS, 20 serum samples from patients with autoimmune diseases, and 43 serum samples from healthy blood donors. The detection rates were comparable to those obtained with a commercial SARS-CoV IFA kit (EUROIMMUN, Gross Groenau, Germany) and a conventional IFA performed at the Singapore General Hospital. Our data showed that the newly developed IFA could detect SARS-CoV in 22 of the 23 SARS-CoV-positive serum samples and gave no false-positive results when the sera from patients with autoimmune diseases and healthy individuals were tested. The detection rate was identical to those of the two whole-virus-based IFAs. Thus, the novel N-S fusion antigen-based IFA could be an attractive alternative to present whole-virus-based IFAs for the diagnosis of SARS-CoV infection.
Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) is an infectious disease which was caused by a novel coronavirus (SARS‐CoV). SARS has caused an outbreak in the world during 2003 and 2004, with 8098 individuals being infected and a death toll of 774 in 28 regions around the world. Specific humoral responses to viral infection remain unclear.
To analyse the antigenicity of the SARS‐CoV genome and identify potential antigenic epitopes in the structural proteins.
Potential antigenic epitopes were identified in the structural proteins (nucleocapsid, membrane, spike, and small envelope proteins) and hypothetical proteins (SARS3a, 3b, 6, 7a, and 9b) that are specific for SARS‐CoV. A peptide chip platform was created and the profiles of antibodies to these epitopes were investigated in 59 different SARS patients' sera obtained 6–103 days after the onset of the illness. Serial sera from five additional patients were also studied.
Epitopes at the N‐terminus of the membrane protein and the C‐terminus of nucleocapsid protein elicited strong antibody responses. Epitopes on the spike protein were only moderately immunogenic but the effects were persistent. Antibodies were also detected for some putative proteins, noticeably the C‐termini of SARS3a and SARS6.
Important epitopes of the SARS‐CoV genome that may serve as potential markers for the viral infection are identified. These specific antigenic sites may also be important for vaccine development against this new fatal infectious disease.
SARS; coronavirus; antibody; peptide chip
To characterize genetic variation of severe acute respiratory syndrome–associated coronavirus (SARS-CoV) transmitted in the Beijing area during the epidemic outbreak of 2003, we sequenced 29 full-length S genes of SARS-CoV from 20 hospitalized SARS patients on our unit, the Beijing 302 Hospital. Viral RNA templates for the S-gene amplification were directly extracted from raw clinical samples, including plasma, throat swab, sputum, and stool, during the course of the epidemic in the Beijing area. We used a TA-cloning assay with direct analysis of nested reverse transcription–polymerase chain reaction products in sequence. One hundred thirteen sequence variations with nine recurrent variant sites were identified in analyzed S-gene sequences compared with the BJ01 strain of SARS-CoV. Among them, eight variant sites were, we think, the first documented. Our findings demonstrate the coexistence of S-gene sequences with and without substitutions (referred to BJ01) in samples analyzed from some patients.
SARS coronavirus,genetic variation; quasispecies,spike glycoprotein gene
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).
In the 2003 outbreak in Toronto (in Ontario, Canada) of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), about 20% of cases resulted from household transmission. The purpose of our study was to determine characteristics associated with the transmission of SARS within households.
A retrospective cohort of SARS-affected households was studied to determine risk factors for household transmission. Questionnaires addressed characteristics of the index case, the household and behaviours among household members. Potential risk factors for secondary transmission of infection were assessed in regression models appropriate to the outcome (secondary cases) and nonindependence of household members.
The 74 households that participated included 18 secondary cases and 158 uninfected household members in addition to the 74 index cases. The household secondary attack rate was 10.2% (95% confidence interval [CI] 6.7%–23.5%). There was a linear association between the time the index patient spent at home after symptom onset and the secondary attack rate. Infected health care workers who were index cases had lower rates of household transmission.
SARS transmission in households is complex and increases with the length of time an ill person spends at home. Risk of transmission was lower when the index case was a health care worker. Rapid case identification is the public health measure most useful in minimizing exposure in the home.
During the recent severe acute respiratory (SARS) outbreak, the etiologic agent was identified as a new coronavirus (CoV). We have isolated a SARS-associated CoV (SARS-CoV) strain by injecting Vero cells with a sputum specimen from an Italian patient affected by a severe pneumonia; the patient traveled from Vietnam to Italy in March 2003. Ultrastructural analysis of infected Vero cells showed the virions within cell vesicles and around the cell membrane. The full-length viral genome sequence was similar to those derived from the Hong-Kong Hotel M isolate. By using both real-time reverse transcription–polymerase chain reaction TaqMan assay and an infectivity plaque assay, we determined that approximately 360 viral genomes were required to generate a PFU. In addition, heparin (100 μg/mL) inhibited infection of Vero cells by 50%. Overall, the molecular and biologic characteristics of the strain HSR1 provide evidence that SARS-CoV forms a fourth genetic coronavirus group with distinct genomic and biologic features.
SARS-coronavirus; isolation; sequence; plaque assay; real-time PCR
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.
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.
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.
Objectives: To evaluate the impact of a severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) outbreak in the emergency department (ED).
Methods: Computerised records of all ED visits in January and May 2003 were analysed and compared, representing before and during the SARS epidemic respectively. Data were grouped into two categories. Group 1 was the indicators of impact on patients, including visitor's condition classification, number of patients that died on arrival (DOA), received cardiopulmonary resuscitation, underwent endotracheal intubation, needed mechanical ventilation, discharged against medical advice (AAD), died in the ED, and the admission rate to wards. Group 2 was the indicators of impact on the quality of medical care, including number of visits that returned within 72 hours (early returns), underwent chest radiography, upper abdomen sonography or computed tomography, and the length of stay.
Results: There were 6650 and 3901 consecutive encounters in January and May 2003 respectively. There were significant differences on condition classifications (p = 0.000), increased rate of patients that underwent endotracheal intubation (p = 0.003), needed mechanical ventilation (p = 0.020), and admission (p = 0.000). The rate of AAD decreased significantly (p = 0.024). There was no significant difference on early returns, although the length of stay in the ED increased (p = 0.043). The number of visits that underwent chest radiological examination increased (p = 0.000) and upper abdomen sonography (p = 0.007) decreased significantly in May.
Conclusions: SARS had an impact on the medical service system and decreased visits by 40% in the ED. Patients visiting the ED had more severe conditions than before. The impact of SARS on quality of medical care can be minimised when adequate infection control measures are applied.