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After SARS, world more prepared for coronavirus outbreak

CDC already creates sequence


It’s been 17 years since the SARS outbreak.

That illness sickened 8,000 people and killed almost 800 worldwide. Like the new coronavirus, SARS also started in China but the government went to great lengths to hide the outbreak for months and to conceal the number of people who were sick.

That delayed world response lead to the changes that we see today.

As China contains the coronavirus, it’s communicating with the world in a way that hasn’t happened in previous outbreaks. The information coming out of China, including genetic sequence for the virus, has allowed other nations to respond much more rapidly.



By comparison, it was five months before the SARS virus was even sequenced. The world is also more prepared this time.

Many countries, including the U.S., have dramatically strengthened their public health network after SARS. But one change that hasn’t happened since SARS is shutting down the exotic animal markets in China.

In 2006, those animal markets specifically were identified as a dangerous source of possible new infections. With a market once again suspected in the novel coronavirus outbreak, it’s clear there’s still work to be done.

There is another major difference between this outbreak and SARS, and that’s social media. There have been many false reports circulating online regarding the corornavirus and there’s concern that it might contribute to fear and panic.

Health officials are trying to counter that by pushing out accurate information on social media, in addition to using their usual networks.


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