On April 22, 2013, Daniel Lucey, Adjunct Professor of Microbiology and Immunology at Georgetown University Medical Center and an expert on global virus outbreaks, delivered the final CIRS Monthly Dialogue of the 2012-2013 academic year. Titled “Global Travel and Virus Outbreaks 2003-2013,” the talk focused on past global outbreaks of respiratory diseases like SARS and H1N1, and a possible future one that has recently been discovered in the Middle East.
Giving some background into coronavirus epidemics, Lucey explained that the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) coronavirus first appeared in 2002 in Southeast China. He recalled that “by the first half of 2003, the SARS coronavirus had spread to twenty-nine nations on five continents,” largely through air travel. The virus initially spread through hospitals as infected patients transmitted the disease to medical staff who in turn infected family members. The contagion had a 10 percent fatality rate; out of the approximately 8,000 people who were diagnosed, 800 people died. Due to the large percentage of fatalities, the Chinese government received heavy criticism for their handling of the situation, but, according to Lucey, because this was such a novel disease that spread at such a rapid pace, it could not have been predicted, nor easily halted.