Different epidemic curves for severe acute respiratory syndrome reveal similar impacts of control measures

Am J Epidemiol. 2004 Sep 15;160(6):509-16. doi: 10.1093/aje/kwh255.


Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) has been the first severe contagious disease to emerge in the 21st century. The available epidemic curves for SARS show marked differences between the affected regions with respect to the total number of cases and epidemic duration, even for those regions in which outbreaks started almost simultaneously and similar control measures were implemented at the same time. The authors developed a likelihood-based estimation procedure that infers the temporal pattern of effective reproduction numbers from an observed epidemic curve. Precise estimates for the effective reproduction numbers were obtained by applying this estimation procedure to available data for SARS outbreaks that occurred in Hong Kong, Vietnam, Singapore, and Canada in 2003. The effective reproduction numbers revealed that epidemics in the various affected regions were characterized by markedly similar disease transmission potentials and similar levels of effectiveness of control measures. In controlling SARS outbreaks, timely alerts have been essential: Delaying the institution of control measures by 1 week would have nearly tripled the epidemic size and would have increased the expected epidemic duration by 4 weeks.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Canada / epidemiology
  • Communicable Disease Control / methods
  • Communicable Disease Control / standards
  • Communicable Diseases, Emerging / epidemiology*
  • Communicable Diseases, Emerging / prevention & control*
  • Communicable Diseases, Emerging / transmission
  • Disease Outbreaks* / prevention & control
  • Disease Outbreaks* / statistics & numerical data
  • Epidemiologic Factors
  • Epidemiologic Methods
  • Global Health
  • Hong Kong / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Likelihood Functions
  • Models, Statistical
  • Population Surveillance / methods
  • Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome / epidemiology*
  • Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome / prevention & control*
  • Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome / transmission
  • Singapore / epidemiology
  • Stochastic Processes
  • Time Factors
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Vietnam / epidemiology