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Piecing Together the SARS Puzzle

Dr. David Hui treats SARS patients at the Prince of Wales hospital in Hong Kong. So far, he doesn't have symptoms, but he's stopped visiting his parents in case he has acquired the disease.
Joe Palca, NPR News /
Dr. David Hui treats SARS patients at the Prince of Wales hospital in Hong Kong. So far, he doesn't have symptoms, but he's stopped visiting his parents in case he has acquired the disease.
The first cases of SARS in Hong Kong happened at Shatin's Prince of Wales hospital.
Joe Palca, NPR News /
The first cases of SARS in Hong Kong happened at Shatin's Prince of Wales hospital.

For more than two months, hospitals in Hong Kong have been struggling to cope with SARS. Staffing has been difficult, because a quarter of all SARS cases in Hong Kong are health-care workers.

The Prince of Wales Hospital in the Shatin section of Hong Kong has been at the center of the outbreak. Much of what the medical world knows about SARS and how to treat it was learned there through hard experience.

At one point, there were 177 SARS-infected patients in the hospital. Now, there's barely 50. Nearly everyone who caught the disease had been in the hospital's ward 8A. Health-care workers have since traced the outbreak to one patient, a 26-year-old man who made several visits to the emergency room, complaining of flu-like symptoms. He was finally admitted -- to ward 8a -- on March 4, when his X-rays showed clear-cut pneumonia. From there, the outbreak began.

NPR's Joe Palca visited the hospital, and reports on what researchers have learned from the Prince of Wales outbreak.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Joe Palca is a science correspondent for NPR. Since joining NPR in 1992, Palca has covered a range of science topics — everything from biomedical research to astronomy. He is currently focused on the eponymous series, "Joe's Big Idea." Stories in the series explore the minds and motivations of scientists and inventors. Palca is also the founder of NPR Scicommers – A science communication collective.

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