Royal Society Publishing

The international response to the outbreak of SARS in 2003

David L. Heymann


The sudden arrival of an internationally spreading outbreak of a newly identified infectious disease in early 2003, severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), provided an opportunity for a coordinated international response based on information and evidence obtained in real time through standard and electronic communications. Its containment represents a new way of working internationally, and demonstrates how intense collaboration in virology, clinical medicine and epidemiology can rapidly provide the information necessary to create and implement evidence–based control measures. The SARS outbreak serves as a reminder of the need for a strong national surveillance and response to infectious diseases, evidence–based international travel recommendations, and a global alert and response network to serve as a safety net when national surveillance fails.