gms | German Medical Science

International Conference on SARS - one year after the (first) outbreak

08. - 11.05.2004, Lübeck

Work load of the SARS outbreak 2003 on health departments in Germany


Search Medline for

  • corresponding author presenting/speaker Klaudia Porten - Robert Koch-Institut, Berlin Germany
  • Daniel Faensen - Robert Koch-Institut, Berlin Germany
  • Gérard Krause - Robert Koch-Institut, Berlin Germany

International Conference on SARS - one year after the (first) outbreak. Lübeck, 08.-11.05.2004. Düsseldorf, Köln: German Medical Science; 2004. Doc04sarsP1.02

The electronic version of this article is the complete one and can be found online at:

Published: May 26, 2004

© 2004 Porten et al.
This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License ( You are free: to Share – to copy, distribute and transmit the work, provided the original author and source are credited.




The epidemic of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) 2003 was successfully contained. In Germany 38 suspect cases and 9 probable cases were reported. There was no transmission of SARS in Germany. Public health management included isolation of cases and contact tracing.


A systematic and quantitative description of the preventive measures taken by the German public health sector, in order to assess the workload.


Standardised questionnaires were sent to all 384 local health departments of 15 of the 16 states, inquiring about cases under investigation, contacts traced and working hours needed.

Case definitions of suspect and probable cases according to WHO case definitions were used. A case under investigation was defined as a person who was considered a case at any time regardless of the final classification.


280 (73%) questionnaires were received. 100 local health departments stated to have had at least one case under investigation.

271 cases were under investigation and initially regarded as suspected or probable cases, 259 (96%) had information on final classification, 215 (83%) were later discarded. 245 (90%) had information about place of residence, 219 (89%) were residents in Germany, 26 (11%) in other countries.

Information about the number of contacts was given for 152 (56%) cases under investigation, 713 contacts were identified (average 4.7 contacts/case), 226 (32%) being in home quarantine. Information on type of contact was available for 220 (97%): 79 (36%) were family- or household-member, 47 (21%) contact at work place, 15 (7%) airline passenger, 79 (36%) other kinds of contact.

Data about the length of quarantine were completed for 175 (77%) contacts. They were isolated in average of 5.6 days, with a range of 1 to 10 days and a mode of 10 days.

71 (61%) contacts were reported to have an income, 45 (39%) were reported not to have an income. 11 contacts claimed compensation.


The study showed a higher workload than expected. The high number of cases under investigation and contacts traced documents the burden to the public health sector. The experience of the SARS epidemic shows that the public health sector needs sufficient resources to cope with similar situations.