Public health measures implemented during the SARS outbreak in Singapore, 2003

Public Health. 2006 Jan;120(1):20-6. doi: 10.1016/j.puhe.2005.10.005. Epub 2005 Nov 16.


The SARS outbreak hit Singapore between March and May 2003. Public health control measures were applied along three fronts; prevention and control within healthcare settings, community and at the borders. Nosocomial spread composed majority of SARS cases in Singapore. To prevent infection within healthcare facilities, cases were centralized in a SARS-designated hospital, a no-visitors rule was applied and movement of patients and healthcare staff were restricted. For triaging purposes, fever clinics were established. A dedicated ambulance service was used to transport possible cases to the SARS-designated hospital. Hospitals were surveyed for fever clusters. The challenge was to identify cases with atypical presentation. Effective and safe discharge criteria were established from the lessons learnt. To prevent community spread, contacts of cases were stringently traced, quarantined in their homes and monitored daily. For prompt identification of a case and to reduce the time between onset of symptoms and isolation, the Infectious Diseases Act was amended. A large wholesale market closure resulted in massive quarantine thereby limiting the spread of infection. A mass education campaign was implemented in order to educate and raise awareness of the public. At all air, sea and land points-of-entry, exit and entry screening took place that resulted in zero importation and exportation of SARS cases after implementation of screening. Coordinated effort of the cross sectional inter-ministerial collaboration and strong coordination by the Task Force and commitment from different professionals made it possible to conquer the disease.

MeSH terms

  • Contact Tracing
  • Cross Infection / prevention & control
  • Disease Outbreaks / prevention & control*
  • Humans
  • Infection Control / methods*
  • Public Health*
  • Quarantine
  • Sentinel Surveillance
  • Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome / epidemiology*
  • Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome / prevention & control
  • Singapore / epidemiology