The SARS epidemic of 2003 was one of the most serious public health crises of our times. The event, which lasted only a few months, is best seen as a warning shot, a wake-up call for public health professionals, security officials, economic planners, and policy makers everywhere. SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) is one of the “new” epidemics. SARS in China addresses the structure and impact of the epidemic and its short and medium range implications for an interconnected, globalized world.
After initially stalling and prevaricating, the Chinese government managed to control SARS before it became a global catastrophe, an accomplishment that required political will and national mobilization. Recent warnings from the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) regarding avian flu make it clear that SARS may have been a prelude to bigger things.
The contributors to this volume include a journalist, WHO's representative in Beijing, and health care professionals, several of whom found themselves on the frontlines of the battle to understand and control SARS. Their vivid, first-hand accounts encouraged other contributors to go beyond the boundaries of their respective disciplines and write for a wide audience.
The authors of this volume focus on specific aspects of the SARS outbreak—epidemiological, political, economic, social, cultural, and moral. They analyze SARS as a form of social suffering and raise questions about the relevance of national sovereignty in the face of such global threats. Taken together, these essays demonstrate that SARS had the potential of becoming a major turning point in human history. This book thus poses a question of the greatest possible significance: Can we learn from SARS before the next pandemic?
Thomas G. Rawski
James L. Watson
Yun Kwok Wing