The rumouring of SARS during the 2003 epidemic in China

Zixue Tai, Tao Sun

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

39 Scopus citations


By analysing rumour content as covered by major Chinese newspapers, this article explores the multiple dimensions of SARS-related rumouring throughout China during the 2003 epidemic. Findings indicate a strong correlation between the scale of SARS infections and level of rumour activities across regions. As for channels of dissemination, the rumour process still found a natural habitat in word of mouth, while internet-based platforms and cell phone text messaging emerged as viable grapevines. Our particular typology of SARS-incurred rumours leads us to identify four distinct types of rumours: legendary rumours; aetiological narratives; proto-memorates; and bogies. The four types of rumours are discussed against the background of superstitious beliefs, folklore practices, popular mentalities, and China's particular socio-political information environment.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)677-693
Number of pages17
JournalSociology of Health and Illness
Issue number5
StatePublished - Jul 2011


  • China
  • Rumour mongering
  • Rumour typology
  • Rumours
  • SARS
  • Sociology of rumour

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Health Policy
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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