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Home Eurosurveillance Weekly Release  2003: Volume 7/ Issue 44 Article 3
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Eurosurveillance, Volume 7, Issue 44, 31 October 2003

Citation style for this article: Chow Y. Consensus document on the epidemiology of SARS. Euro Surveill. 2003;7(44):pii=2318. Available online:

Consensus document on the epidemiology of SARS

Yimmy Chow, Health Protection Agency Communicable Disease Surveillance Centre, London, England, and the editorial team (, Eurosurveillance editorial office.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has issued a consensus document on severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) (1). The 35 page report summarises the international research on the epidemiology of the SARS outbreak, representing the views of experts in public health, epidemiology, and clinical virology. It uses experiences from the main outbreak sites including published and unpublished documents and information from the weekly teleconferences of the WHO ad hoc working group on the epidemiology of SARS.

Some of the main conclusions from the report include:

There is no evidence that SARS is an airborne disease
Healthcare workers were at special risk
The risk of transmission is greatest at around day ten of illness
There is no evidence that patients transmit infection ten days after fever has resolved
Children are rarely affected by SARS

The report was released at the start of four consecutive SARS meetings hosted by WHO in Geneva, which have concentrated on the priorities for scientific research, laboratory issues, clinical treatment protocols, and prospects for vaccine development.

At the first of these meetings, the WHO SARS Scientific Research Advisory Committee met to identify the most urgent areas of research into SARS, and make preparations for the possible recurrence of the disease (2). Issues discussed included:

The global SARS alert system
Preparedness in resource-poor settings
Possible evolution of the SARS coronavirus
Amplification in hospitals: the role of infection control
Laboratory biosafety
Control interventions

  1. WHO Department of Communicable Disease, Surveillance and Response. Consensus document on the epidemiology of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS). WHO/CDS/CSR/GAR/2003.11. Geneva: World Health Organization; 17 October 2003. ( [accessed 31 October 2003]
  2. WHO CSR Situation updates-SARS. WHO SARS Scientific Research Advisory Committee concludes its first meeting. 22 October 2003. ( [accessed 31 October 2003]

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