Article ID: CBB000671330

Toronto's Health Department in Action: Influenza in 1918 and SARS in 2003 (2007)


This article compares the Toronto Health Department's role in controlling the 1918 influenza epidemic with its activities during the SARS outbreak in 2003 and concludes that local health departments are the foundation for successful disease containment, provided that there is effective coordination, communication, and capacity. In 1918, Toronto's MOH Charles Hastings was the acknowledged leader of efforts to contain the disease, care for the sick, and develop an effective vaccine, because neither a federal health department nor an international body like WHO existed. During the SARS outbreak, Hastings's successor, Sheela Basrur, discovered that nearly a decade of underfunding and new policy foci such as health promotion had left the department vulnerable when faced with a potential epidemic. Lack of cooperation by provincial and federal authorities added further difficulties to the challenge of organizing contact tracing, quarantine, and isolation for suspected and probable cases and providing information and reassurance to the multi-ethnic population. With growing concern about a flu pandemic, the lessons of the past provide a foundation for future communicable disease control activities.

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Authors & Contributors
Gaudillière, Jean-Paul
Löwy, Illana
Mendelsohn, J. Andrew
Brown, JoAnne
Creager, Angela N. H.
Zylberman, Patrick
Medicina Historica
Scientia Canadensis: Journal of the History of Canadian Science, Technology, and Medicine
Dynamis: Acta Hispanica ad Medicinae Scientiarumque Historiam Illustrandam
Social Science History
História, Ciências, Saúde---Manguinhos
Centaurus: International Magazine of the History of Mathematics, Science, and Technology
University of Manitoba Press
School of Policy Studies, Queen's University: McGill-Queen's University Press
McGill-Queen's University Press
Duke University Press
Public health
Disease and diseases
Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS)
Time Periods
19th century
20th century
21st century
20th century, early
18th century
Bogotá (Colombia)
United States
Alaska (U.S.)
East Asia
World Health Organization (WHO)

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