Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) was a new human disease in the autumn of 2002. It first occurred in Southern China in November 2002 and was transported to Hong Kong on February 21, 2003 by an infected and ill patient. Ten secondary cases spread the infection to two hospitals in Hong Kong and to Singapore, Toronto and Hanoi. In March 2003 a novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV) was found to be the causative agent. Within 11 weeks from the first SARS case in Hong Kong it had spread to an additional 27 countries or special administrative regions. The mini pandemic peaked during the last week of May 2003 and the last new probable case was on July 13, 2003. There were a total of 8096 probable cases and 774 deaths. Sixty-six per cent of the cases occurred in China, 22% in Hong Kong, 4% in Taiwan and 3% in both Singapore and Canada. Twenty-one per cent of all cases occurred in healthcare workers.