The winter of 2003 saw a new infectious disease, Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), which spread quickly around the world. Starting in rural China, in a matter of weeks the disease moved through Hong Kong and Southeast Asia. With international plane flights shorter than the incubation period, the disease appeared in many parts of the world. Canada was not spared, with cases occurring in Vancouver and Toronto. The outbreak was contained in Vancouver, as it was in most places outside China. In Toronto, the outbreak spread through the health system. SARS resulted in 44 deaths, several hundred cases and thousands of people quarantined. The outbreak virtually shut down Toronto's healthcare system to all but the most urgent cases for several weeks. Countless procedures were delayed or cancelled, with further effect on the population's health. Patients in hospital were unable to have visits from family and friends, which had a particularly significant impact on terminal patients. Anxiety in the community was prevalent, resulting in many closed schools, cancelled meetings and considerable damage to the economy as visitors stayed away.
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