What is Epidemiology?

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Monday, February 14, 2011

Big epidemiology event - SARS

Let me share my own experience with SARS (Severe Acute Repiratory Syndrome) when I was in China. It started in 2002 when I was a freshman in college.

SARS is a very big one time epidemiology event from 2002 to 2003. According to the fact sheet from CDC, it is a fatal respiratory disease caused by a coronavirus in human. Patient would have high fever at the beginning, then pneumonia mostly. It could spread by close person-to-person contact, such as hugging, kissing. [1] There are  8,098 SARS cases from 29 countries were reported to the World Health Organization (WHO) in total with 9.6% case-fatality rate. [2] It was a very scary epidemiology event.

As I remembered that was my first year in college, I was so excited about being a college student and finally be away from my parents. :) Suddenly, SARS started without any early signs.  At the very beginning, the media in China blocked this bad news, no one knows about it and no one knows how serious it is. Especially, when SARS began, it was around Chinese New Year. A lot of people were travelling to their homes or going shopping for their New Year party and every public area became very crowd, such as airport, train station, bus station, as well as all shopping malls and markets. But no one knows a fatal disease is spreading. I think this is the most pathetic thing. 

Until SARS became uncontrollable, the media start to report this disease. And Chinese government began to report to CDC and WHO. Because of the delay reporting, we all think this happens to fast and became extremely dangerous too quickly. Because this infectious disease is very severe and can be infect person-to-person based on CDC and WHO's announcement, everyone began to panic and was afraid to go out and talk in public. 
Meanwhile, there were a lot of legislations passed. For example, no any activities that require more than 10 people presenting at the same time. Every single people needs to measure their own body temperature every day and report to their community. Anyone whose temperature excess normal temperature must report to their local SARS control center and quarantine for at least seven days.  every college had to close and forbid any student go out or come in, including my college. 

So, at that time, I couldn't go home or any where... I have to stay at my college without any classes, everybody should stay at their own apartment and minimize the chance of getting infection. We had been lock at school for a whole semester. As a student should feel so good to have a semester without any classes, but none of my classmates are happy. I wish the media in China could report SARS earlier and the Chinese government should report it to CDC and WHO earlier. If we could control it at first place instead of letting it spread, it won't become so serious and it won't destroy so many lives...

This is the most serious epidemic event that I've been lived with. Below is the picture of a school in China showing a professional spraying disinfectant for every classroom.

1. Severe Acute Repiratory Syndrome (SARS) fact sheet, CDC. http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/sars/factsheet.htm
2. Revised US Surverllance Case Definition for Severe Acute Repiratory Syndrome (SARS) and Update on SARS Cases -- United States and Worldwide, December 2003. MMWR, CDC. http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm5249a2.htm

The picture is cited from http://www.sdshiyan.sd.cn/shiyan/sch_news/2003/0421/news2.htm

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