Recent investigations into the March 2003 outbreak of SARS in Hong Kong have concluded that environmental factors played an important role in the transmission of the disease. These studies have focused on a particular outbreak event, the rapid spread of SARS throughout Amoy Gardens, a large, private apartment complex. They have demonstrated that, unlike a typical viral outbreak that is spread through person-to-person contact, the SARS virus in this case was spread primarily through the air. High concentrations of viral aerosols in building plumbing were drawn into apartment bathrooms through floor drains. The initial exposures occurred in these bathrooms. The virus-laden air was then transported by prevailing winds to adjacent buildings at Amoy Gardens, where additional exposures occurred. This article reviews the results of the investigations and provides recommendations for maintenance and other measures that building owners can take to help prevent environmental transmission of SARS and other flu like viruses in their buildings.
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