Hope for SARS

On April 28 the World Health Organization declared Vietnam the first country in the world to contain its SARS outbreak. Here’s a compelling story from the New York Times which chronicles how SARS entered Vietnam and the rapid action taken by the government and medical community. It’s also the story of a humble nurse who willed herself to survive, bringing hope to those fighting to contain the outbreak.

HANOI, Vietnam, May 5 � Doctors and nurses clustered around the bed of Nguyen Thi Men when she emerged in mid-March from a nine-day coma, urging her to stay alive.

“Breathe, breathe,” they said. “Keep trying. Your husband and your children are waiting for you.”

She heard them and she tried, although she felt as if she were drowning, she said in an interview this weekend at her home.

“I saw a lot of doctors looking at me and it really raised my spirits,” she said. “So many people looking after me. I was very touched.”

What she did not yet know was that they had gathered to view a miracle. She was the only survivor from among the six most critically ill patients infected when SARS broke out in the Hanoi French Hospital more than two months ago.

Her survival became a hopeful symbol for Vietnam, which on April 28 was declared by the World Health Organization to be the first nation to contain and eliminate the disease. Vietnam earned that distinction by going 20 straight days without a new case after recording 63 infections, including the six critical cases. Five people had died.

Read the article.

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