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.