We Didnt Take Any Preventive Measures

One young nurse who became ill says that she had been looking after a patient who came to the hospital with flu-like symptoms, as well as a severe cough. "The whole forty minutes [she was with him] he was coughing and expelling huge amounts of phlegm." This was unusual, she says, for a cough of that nature was not normally a symptom of the strains of flu she had seen. But although his illness was a mystery, the staff did not wear masks when tending to him. "We didn't take any preventive measures," she says, "as we normally don't wear masks when taking care of flu patients."5

The patient's condition deteriorated quickly, and he was transferred to a larger urban hospital, where he died. Meanwhile, the nurse became ill. With a high fever, aches, and fatigue, she thought she might be overworked or had maybe caught the flu.

A doctor treats a SARS patient in Hanoi, Vietnam, in 2003. The first cases of the disease appeared in November 2002 in rural areas of China's Guangdong Province.

A doctor treats a SARS patient in Hanoi, Vietnam, in 2003. The first cases of the disease appeared in November 2002 in rural areas of China's Guangdong Province.

But medicines and rest did not help her symptoms at all, and she was admitted to the hospital where ten other staff members had become sick with similar complaints.

Her symptoms worsened within a day or two. "Breathing was difficult and I had to be under a respirator for about ten days. I was unconscious most of the time." Though she was lucky enough to survive, after more than a month she was still ill:

My lungs haven't got back to normal and I still feel tight in the chest. I suffer from a bad insomnia; most nights I can only sleep for a couple hours. My muscles are so weak I can hardly lift anything, and my eyes are swollen and red. But the thing that disturbs me the most is my right leg. I can't walk, can't even move the leg without feeling an excruciating pain in my joints. I used to be very active, very physical.6

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