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These Pictures Show The Impact Of The 2003 SARS Outbreak

The novel coronavirus, which has killed more than 900, has surpassed the 2003 death toll of the SARS epidemic. These pictures show how the world responded to the SARS outbreak some 17 years ago.

Posted on February 10, 2020, at 3:43 p.m. ET

In February 2003, the World Health Organization recognized a deadly new virus making its way across Asia. Severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS, first appeared in China's Guangdong Province, although it was not reported by the Chinese government to the WHO until the following year. By this time, SARS has already infected thousands of people worldwide and had resulted in over 500 deaths. In the months that followed, the SARS outbreak had spread across 37 countries, resulting in 8,098 cases and 774 deaths. On July 5, 2003, the WHO announced that SARS was entirely contained, and in 2017, Chinese scientists pinpointed the genetic source of the virus as a colony of cave-dwelling horseshoe bats located in a remote region of China's Yunnan province.

Following the 2003 SARS outbreak, the Chinese government faced international backlash for its suppression of information, widely viewed as harming efforts that could have contained the outbreak in its early stages. The government's aggressive quarantine measures to contain the new coronavirus appear to be in direct response to these criticisms. Despite these efforts, the new coronavirus, which is derived from the same family of viruses that caused both the SARS outbreak and 2012 MERS outbreak, has infected over 40,000 people and killed more than 900, surpassing the death toll of the entire SARS epidemic.

These pictures show how those regions hit hardest by the SARS epidemic responded to this global outbreak.

Christian Keenan / Getty Images

Hong Kong's first nurse killed by SARS is carried in a coffin draped in the flag of Hong Kong, May 7, 2003. Lau Wing-kai was given a "people's hero" funeral, which was attended by several leading politicians and Hong Kong's then–chief executive Tung Chee-hwa. Lau Wing-kai contracted the illness while working in a hospital that was treating patients who were already carrying the virus.

Peter Parks / Getty Images

A woman reads a newspaper with a lead story about a Filipino woman who has died of SARS in Hong Kong, March 30, 2003.

Chung Sung-jun / Getty Images

National Institute of Health Chief Kim Mun-Sik (center) speaks during a press conference at the organization's center in Seoul, April 29, 2003.

South China Morning Post / Getty Images

Students of SKH Yat San Primary School line up to have their temperature checked on the first day of the new school year, Sept. 1, 2003.

South China Morning Post / Getty Images

Hong Kong's Catholic Bishop Joseph Zen Ze-kiun attends a pre-Easter Mass at the Catholic Cathedral, April 17, 2003.

Getty Images

Two immigration officers wear masks while chatting at an empty lineup area in the arrivals section of the airport in Taoyuan, Taiwan, April 10, 2003.

Christopher Morris - Corbis / Getty Images

Two men are seen selling $0.99 surgical masks for $10 in Vancouver, April 2, 2003.

Christian Keenan / Getty Images

City officials in Hong Kong hand out free protective face masks, March 28, 2003.

Getty Images

Workers begin construction on one of the new hospital wards to house SARS patients at the Xiaotangshan hospital complex in Beijing, April 26, 2003.

Getty Images

A hospital staff member cares for a suspected SARS victim at the Tan Tock Seng hospital in Singapore, April 14, 2003. The hospital became the epicenter for people who experiencing symptoms of SARS, with a tented screening center in the parking lot which acted as an entry point for the island state's suspected victims.

CDC / Getty Images

A microscopic view of SARS at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.

AFP via Getty Images

Nguyen Duc Kham, 67, and another unidentified SARS patient receive treatment at Hanoi's Bach Mai hospital, April 3, 2003.

Daniel Janin / AFP via Getty Images

Doctors at the Bichat–Claude Bernard hospital in Paris examine X-rays of patients likely infected with SARS, April 3, 2003.

South China Morning Post / Getty Images

A memorial service in Hong Kong for nurse Lau Wing-kai, May 6, 2003.

The Asahi Shimbun / Getty Images

People in Beijing barricade a road to check the unknown people coming in the area in fear of the SARS virus, May 9, 2003.

Getty Images

Commuters at a subway station in Singapore look over tributes to the medical teams caring for the SARS patients, April 13, 2003.

Keith Torrie / NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images

Sen. Hillary Clinton speaks at a news conference on SARS at the Department of Health in New York City. Looking on are Councilmember John Liu (left) and Health Commissioner Thomas Frieden.

AFP via Getty Images

A police officer watches over a civet cat suspected of carrying SARS in Wuhan, China, 2003.

South China Morning Post / Getty Images

Hong Kong's Financial Secretary Antony Leung has a drink with government colleagues in celebration of the World Health Organization canceling the city's SARS warning, May 23, 2003.

Mark Ralston / South China Morning Post via Getty Images

A man wears a "SARS Survivor" T-shirt in Beijing, June 18, 2003. The city was finally getting back to normal after nearly two months of SARS-related closures and quarantine.

Jimin Lai / Getty Images

World Health Organization Chief Gro Harlem Brundtland delivers her closing speech at the WHO Global Conference on SARS in Kuala Lumpur, June 18, 2003.

Mark Ralston / South China Morning Post via Getty Images

Beijingers release thousands of balloons at a ceremony organized by the Beijing Tourism Bureau to mark the end of the SARS travel ban advisory in Beijing, June 26, 2003.


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