SARS

A lot of people aren’t worried about SARS. They say, well, it’s only killed a few hundred people, that’s a drop in the ocean compared to malaria, AIDS, influenza, car accidents, smoking, etc. etc. So what’s the big deal?

The big deal is that you do not measure the threat of a disease merely by the number of people it has killed. SARS is qualitatively different from any other disease; there is no known cure and will not be one for some time. Its mode of transmission and lifecycle makes it capable to spread extremely quickly unnoticed. The fatality rate of roughly 10% is also quite high, and considering that there are no contingencies in place to deal with it in (e.g. availability of ventilators), it could have severe effects on all countries – even first world countries with first class healthcare systems.

SARS is a new disease and it is not well understood. The fact that it has killed less than 300 does not reduce its evident threat and does not mean that we should only be worried when people start dying in the US and UK.

2 Replies to “SARS”

  1. There is a huge difference between not being worried and being reasonable. So sue us if in Toronto we’re not all running around crying “the sky is falling” and wearing masks. We’ve got the facts available to us and are therefore behaving in a reasonable fashion. In other words life goes on as per usual, unless you happen to be linked to the SARS “index case”; no one unrelated to that index case has been infected, in Canada SARS has not been a randomly spreading disease, and there have been no new cases in 2 incubation periods (20 days).

  2. I agree with you. As you say, there is a difference between being not worried and between being reasonable. I am not suggesting that Toronto specifically is being lax in healthcare safety, what I am suggesting is that SARS has to be taken seriously. Yes, people shouldn’t be going around wearing facemasks without due cause, but they shouldn’t dismiss the problem. There is still a real possibility that the virus could spread once again from Asia to North America and the UK.

    As always, there’s a fine line dividing panic and reasonable caution.

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