SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) appeared as the first emerging infectious disease of this century. It is fortunate that the culprit virus can be grown without much difficulty from a commonly used cell line, allowing an unlimited supply of isolates for further molecular studies and leading to the development of sensitive diagnostic assays. How the virus has successfully jumped the species barrier is still a mystery. The superspreading events that occurred within hospital, hotel and high-density housing estate opens a new chapter in the mechanisms and routes of virus transmission. The old practice of quarantine proved to be still useful in controlling the global outbreak. Despite all the available sophisticated tests, alertness with early recognition by healthcare workers and prompt isolation of suspected cases is still the most important step for containing the spread of the infection. Although the rapidly evolving outbreak did not allow the conducting of systematic clinical trails to evaluate treatment options, the accumulated experience on managing SARS patients will improve the clinical outcome should SARS return. Although SARS led to more than 700 deaths worldwide, the lessons learnt have prepared healthcare systems worldwide to face future emerging and re-emerging infections.

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