Demographic Impact and Etiology

Despite the fact that the SARS epidemic threatened the prosperity of seriously affected countries, and posed a grave threat to the health of populations in the region, it was successfully contained with relatively little mortality. Specifically, the epidemic resulted in 8,096 cases of infection (morbidity) and 774 deaths (mortality) between November 1, 2002 and August 7, 2003,1 exhibiting a mortality rate of approximately 10.88 percent of those infected. The SARS coronavirus is a novel zoonosis that recently crossed over from its natural animal reservoirs into the human ecology, presumably in late 2002.2 Specifically, the SARS coronavirus resides in bat populations in Southeast Asia,3 which bite and transmit the virus to palm civets (Paguma larvata), whereupon strains that infect civets possess a greater capacity to then infect individual humans and thereafter become endogenized within the human ecology.4

The moderate level of economic damage generated by the epidemic was not so much the result of the (relatively minor) morbidity and mortality that SARS induced, but emanated from the pernicious psychological effects (fear, anxiety, and panic) that the epidemic generated,5 both within infected areas and in uninfected populations. These significant levels of affect resulted in suboptimal economic outcomes for the entire Pacific Rim as tourism ground to halt, international trade flows were slowed, and foreign investors cautiously withdrew capital from the region during the crisis.

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