We investigated a nosocomial infection of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) in Vietnam in 2003 and attempted to identify risk factors for SARS infection. Of the 146 subjects who came into contact with SARS patients at Hospital A, 43 (29.5%) developed SARS, and an additional 16 (11%) were asymptomatic but SARS-coronavirus (CoV) seropositive. The asymptomatic infection rate accounted for 15.5% of the total number of infected patients at Hospital A, which was higher than that of 6.5% observed at Hospital B, to where all patients from Hospital A were eventually transported (P<0.05). At Hospital A, the risk for developing SARS was 12.6 times higher in individuals not using a mask than in those using a mask. The SARS epidemic in Vietnam resulted in numerous secondary infections due to its unknown etiology and delayed recognition at the beginning of the epidemic. The consistent and proper use of a mask was shown to be crucial for constant protection against infection with SARS.