SARS seems to have originated in the exotic meat markets of southern China in November 2002, then festered while the Chinese government tried to suppress and conceal the problem. The disease traveled to Hong Kong in February 2003, then followed airline routes to Vietnam, Singapore and Toronto. By August, cases had been reported in more than two dozen countries in North and South America, Europe and Asia. More than 8,000 people fell ill; 774 died. The U.S. was mostly spared, with just 29 reported cases, none fatal.