SARS is a highly contagious respiratory disease that infected more than 8,000 individuals in 29 countries principally throughout Asia, Europe, and North America and led to more than 800 deaths as of July 11, 2003. Due to the speed and volume of international travel and trade, emerging infectious diseases such as SARS are difficult to contain within geographic borders, placing numerous countries and regions at risk with a single outbreak. While SARS did not infect large numbers of individuals in the United States, the possibility that it may reemerge raises concerns about the ability of public health officials and health care workers to prevent the spread of the disease in the United States. GAO was asked to assist the Subcommittee in identifying ways in which the United States can prepare for the possibility of another SARS outbreak. Specifically, GAO was asked to determine 1) infectious disease control measures practiced within health care and community settings that helped contain the spread of SARS and 2) the initiatives and challenges in preparing for a possible SARS resurgence.
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