From JM, Intro to GIS
SARS stands for severe acute respiratory syndrome. It is a disease that originated in Southern China and has spread quickly throughout the world. Outbreaks included countries such as Taiwan, Singapore, Canada, Germany, France, Kuwait, Romania and Spain. This virus is incurable with antibiotics, as they have no effect on the disease; therefore, many deaths occurred without any possible treatment. A vaccine was later found with a 67 percent chance of the patient developing a special type of antibodies against this disease. The symptoms include coughing, fever and shortness in breath. This deadly viral disease started in November 2002 as statistics show that 8,096 people were infected and 774 deaths.
Looking at this tragic incident, GIS was used by the Chinese government and the World Health Organization. People and citizens had questions such as “where were infected cases located?” or “which areas or buildings were free of the disease.” To answer these questions, China used ESRI’s ArcIMS to provide the most up to date data of the spatial distribution of the disease. Additionally “updates [from] the China Center for Disease Control” were geocoded and posted online so they could be analysed by various agencies and individuals. Like John Snow’s Cholera map, GIS users mapped every single SARS incident that occurred, examined the spatial patterns, tried to correlate them with other factors, and attempted to understand why the viral disease was occurring more frequently in some places as opposed to others. Using GIS, they were able to see both the rate and where it spreading throughout the world. GIS appears to offer a powerful tool to help people organize data and find a solution to a problem that can help save many lives.