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Severe acute respiratory syndrome

BMJ 2003; 326 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.326.7395.937/a (Published 26 April 2003) Cite this as: BMJ 2003;326:937
  1. Trevor Jackson (tjackson{at}bmj.com)
  1. BMJ

    Information about severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) changes every day. The internet, with its capacity for immediacy and global reach, is therefore a good source of advice to health professionals and the public alike. It is also an ideal place to advertise SARS-related merchandise: enter the search term “SARS” or “severe acute respiratory syndrome” on google.com and you will find boxed notices offering “the ultimate gas mask,” “approved respirators,” gloves, sanitising wipes, “natural immunity boosting supplements,” and private medical insurance.

    The World Health Organization's website (http://www.who.int/), which has been providing regularly updated information about SARS since the syndrome was first recognised at the end of February, now contains quite an archive about the epidemic. At www.who.int/csr/sarscountry/2003_04_21/en/ WHO shows the cumulative number of reported probable cases and deaths, with a breakdown by country, and at www.who.int/csr/sarsareas/2003_04_21/en/ it lists affected areas.

    National organisations offering advice include the United States Centers for Disease Control (www.cdc.gov/ncidod/sars/), Health Canada (www.hc-sc.gc.ca/english/index.html), and the United Kingdom Public Health Laboratory Service (www.phls.co.uk/topics_az/SARS/menu.htm).

    Individuals are also contributing to the online documentation of the outbreak with weblogs—“blogs,” as they are colloquially known. At sarswatch.org, Tim Bishop, a self confessed “epidemiology/emerging diseases junkie,” who states that he is not a doctor, has compiled an impressively detailed weblog, with links to all his sources and a facility for visitors to add comments. At the launch of his weblog on 29 March, Mr Bishop said he was alarmed about how little attention was being paid by the government and the media to the SARS epidemic and that he had been looking for “an excuse to play with a new piece of software” for some time. “It looks like there is a real need for getting more information about this epidemic more widely disseminated, and it seems like an opportunity to turn my formerly useless knowledge to some good,” he said.