Dr. Bruce Townsend
WHO Team Member on SARS Assignment to Vietnam
Bruce Townsend was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota in 1964. He earned his MD from Johns Hopkins University in 1997 and joined the WHO a few weeks after graduating. Dr. Townsend currently lives in Washington, DC.
. When did you first learn of your assignment to Vietnam?
Vietnamese health authorities first reported of atypical flu in Hanoi on the 26th. By this time, there had been several confirmed cases in Hong Kong, so we knew how serious the disease was, although no one was calling it SARS yet. Our team headed out to Hanoi as soon as we could after getting the report. Once there, we worked with the Vietnamese to trace the source of the disease and prevent its spread.
. How did the WHO and member governments react to the spread of the atypical flu?
After "clusters" of cases appeared in Hong Kong, Vietnam, Singapore, and Toronto, the WHO decided that even though we weren’t sure exactly what we were dealing with, this new disease was obviously highly contagious and issued a global report to all member governments about the existence of the new disease on March 12th. Within the next few days, we got reports of at least 150 confirmed cases outside China and issued a travel advisory for Guangdong Province, Hong Kong, Hanoi, Singapore, and Toronto on the 17th. This advisory was the first time the disease was called "Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome," or SARS.