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Severe acute respiratory syndrome SARS is a viral respiratory illness caused by a corona virus SARS was first reported in Asia in February 2003 Over the next few months the illness spread to more than two dozen countries in North America South America Europe and Asia before the SARS global outbreak of 2003 The main way that SARS seems to spread is by close person-to-person contact or is thought to be transmitted when an infected person coughs or sneezes The virus also can spread when a person touches a surface or object contaminated with infectious droplets and then touches his or her mouth nose or eyes It is also possible that the SARS virus might spread more broadly through the air China has been hit the hardest by SARS which was first discovered in the southern province of Guangdong in mid-November 2002 Nearly three months later the Chinese ministry of health reported that there had been 300 cases of an acute respiratory syndrome in the province Nearly half the cases in China have been in Beijing where cinemas theatres and internet cafes were closed at the height of the crisis Just about 300 of the cases in China are in Hong Kong Taiwans first case of SARS was reported on 18 March but the outbreak really took hold during a large surge in late April and early May The WHO says 90 of cases in Taiwan have been related to hospital situations More than 150 doctors and nurses have left their jobs in protest at the lack of safeguards and two hospitals have been fined for covering up the spread of the disease Canada is the worst-hit country outside Asia The virus entered the country when a woman infected in a hotel in Hong Kong returned home
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