Fear and stigma: the epidemic within the SARS outbreak

Emerg Infect Dis. 2004 Feb;10(2):358-63. doi: 10.3201/eid1002.030750.


Because of their evolving nature and inherent scientific uncertainties, outbreaks of emerging infectious diseases can be associated with considerable fear in the general public or in specific communities, especially when illness and deaths are substantial. Mitigating fear and discrimination directed toward persons infected with, and affected by, infectious disease can be important in controlling transmission. Persons who are feared and stigmatized may delay seeking care and remain in the community undetected. This article outlines efforts to rapidly assess, monitor, and address fears associated with the 2003 severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) epidemic in the United States. Although fear, stigmatization, and discrimination were not widespread in the general public, Asian-American communities were particularly affected.

MeSH terms

  • Asian
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, U.S.
  • Community-Institutional Relations
  • Disease Outbreaks*
  • Fear*
  • Health Education
  • Humans
  • Prejudice*
  • Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome / epidemiology*
  • Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome / psychology*
  • United States / epidemiology