The reason SARS passes so easily from one person to another has been discovered: the SARS virus can live for as long as 3 days on walls, glass, plastic, stainless steel and other common household and hospital surfaces. WHO spokesman Iain Simpson says, “It is very difficult to give it a specific length of time because it varies from surface to surface and even place to place.” Most viruses do not last nearly that long on exposed surfaces.

This means that if a family member gets SARS, everyone who comes to the house will be likely to get it unless all surfaces are carefully sterilized. Also, when the SARS virus is deposited on surfaces in hospitals, it has plenty of time to be picked up spread around, unless everything that comes in contact with SARS patients is thoroughly disinfected.

“The worry is?so-called ‘invisible cases’,” says doctor Sydney Chung in Hong Kong. “The elderly people sometimes can have SARS and show no typical symptoms, not even fever. Those are dangerous situations.”

The world has gone through dramatic changes in the past and doubtless will again.

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