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Medical News and Perspectives
October 1, 2003

SARS Attack: Reality vs Perception Collide During Students' Beijing Visit

JAMA. 2003;290(13):1698-1699. doi:10.1001/jama.290.13.1698

In the early days of the epidemic of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), last April, Henry Strobel, PhD, led a group of students from Houston into a Beijing hospital. They donned N95 respirator masks and met a group of Chinese physicians—who promptly chuckled at the Americans' caution. No masks were needed, said the Chinese hosts, who themselves wore no exposure gear.

"That set the tone," said Matthew Harting, one of the 14 fourth-year medical students from the University of Texas Health Sciences Center, who made the trip . The Chinese physicians were cautiously concerned but much less anxious than the students, who had devoured every tidbit of SARS news before leaving Houston. "The physicians understood this was not a disease where you get it [through the air] and it leads to certain death."

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