How to Prevent and Manage Hospital-Based Infections During Coronavirus Outbreaks: Five Lessons from Taiwan

During the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) outbreak in 2003, Taiwan reported 346 confirmed cases and 73 deaths. Of all known infections, 94% were transmitted inside hospitals. Nine major hospitals were fully or partially shut down, and many doctors and nurses quit for fear of becoming infected. The Taipei Municipal Ho-Ping Hospital was most severely affected. Its index patient, a 42-year-old undocumented hospital laundry worker who interacted with staff and patients for 6 days before being hospitalized, became a superspreader, infecting at least 20 other patients and 10 staff members. The entire 450-bed hospital was ordered to shut down, and all 930 staff and 240 patients were quarantined within the hospital. The central government appointed the previous Minister of Health as head of the Anti-SARS Taskforce. Ultimately the hospital was evacuated; the outbreak resulted in 26 deaths. Events surrounding the hospital’s evacuation offer important lessons for hospitals struggling to cope with the COVID-19 pandemic, which has been caused by spread of a similar coronavirus.