During a recent visit to Toronto hospitals, I learned firsthand how the SARS outbreak affected infection prevention departments specifically and health care workers in general. I decided to do some background research on the outbreak and picked up Thomas Abraham’s Twenty-First Century Plague: The Story of SARS. It’s a quick read at 176 pages and takes the reader from SARS’ origins in southern China, tracking the disease step-by-step as it emerges in major cities, spreads internationally, and is eventually thwarted by the efforts of the global health community led by the World Health Organization. Some highlights include: the unusual transmission of SARS via bathroom drains and apartment building plumbing, how health care workers risked and lost their lives to control infections, and how network-enabled collaboration helped spread successful prevention strategies just in time.
It’s a must read for anybody curious about this recent global outbreak, and it serves as a harrowing reminder of how chaotic, confusing, and destructive a modern pandemic can be.