2003 - Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS)
While 2003 is best remembered for the Invasion of Iraq and the capture of Saddam Hussein, it was also a year that showed how globally connected the world had become. SARS is a viral respiratory illness cased by a coronavirus transmitted by coughing or sneezes of an infected person, or by touching a contaminated surface then touching the mouth, nose or eye region of the face. First diagnosed in February 2003, the illness spread to two dozen countries on four continents in a few months.
Why did the disease spread so fast? Early cases of SARS occurred in China; however, the country was slow to notify the World Health Organization. As individuals unknowingly infected with the virus traveled out of the country, the illness spread to other cities, including Toronto, Hong Kong, San Francisco, and Singapore. In all over 8,000 known cases were reported with 774 deaths.
Additional resource: CDC Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) page