Date: Tuesday, 05-February-2013, 3:04 AM | Message # 1
-- dragon lord--
Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome didn't even have its name in February 2003, when it struck its first known victim, Johnny Cheng, in Hanoi, Vietnam. Within days, an international effort led by the World Health Organization (WHO) had massed scientific expertise to fight the mystery illness and avert the nightmare scenario of an uncontrollable pandemic sweeping the globe.
Amid attempts to quarantine high risk groups of people, it seemed only fear could spread more rapidly than the disease itself. Nothing was known about the condition - where it had come from, how it was passed on, how to spot it, contain it or treat it. The infection was described merely as 'flu-like'. But if this was a type of influenza, it was one that killed up to 15% of its sufferers.
The doctor treating Mr Cheng, who first contacted the WHO about the unusual symptoms, was one of six medics to die of SARS at the hospital. But the alarm had been raised and the Organization began to pull together a response. Colossal effort by scientists around the world - and unprecented co-operation - followed. Meanwhile, the media made much of the risk posed by and to international travel, and watched financial markets respond in gloomy fashion.
The SARS virus first emerged in the Chinese province of Guangdong. There had been rumours of a unusual and virulent pneumonia-like illness in the region, but nothing was certain. The Chinese authorities had begun work - ruling out diseases such as ebola and other haemorraghic fevers - but they had no effective medical response to the condition. And given its appearance in Vietnam, containing the unknown infection was already an uphill struggle.
In Geneva, the WHO rapidly accepted the need for global action. Working from a never-used plan drawn up to deal with a 'flu pandemic, it started marshalling forces to identify the contagious agent and develop a treatment response.
The Organization's 'flu specialist is Dr Klaus Stohr. Charged with finding out what the virus was, he too began crossing off what it was not. To his alarm, he realised they could not identify it because it was brand new.