What Is SARS?
respiratory syndrome (SARS) is a serious form of viral pneumonia
caused by the SARS coronavirus. The virus that causes SARS was first identified
The World Health Organization has designated SARS a global
health threat. In 2003, an epidemic killed approximately 774 people worldwide before
it was successfully contained.
No new cases of SARS have been reported since 2004.
What Are the Symptoms of SARS?
SARS symptoms are similar to those of the flu, including:
- fever over 100.4°F
- dry cough
- sore throat
- problems breathing, including shortness of
- body aches
- loss of appetite
- night sweats and chills
Breathing issues will appear within two to 10 days after a
person is exposed to the virus. Health officials will quarantine a person who
presents the above symptoms and family members if they have a history of
foreign travel. The person will be quarantined for 10 days to prevent the virus
Factors that increase your risk of contracting the disease
include close contact with someone diagnosed with SARS and a history of travel
to any other country with a reported SARS outbreak.
How Is SARS Spread?
SARS can spread when an infected person sneezes, coughs, or
comes into face-to-face contact with someone else. Face-to-face contact refers
- caring for someone with SARS
- having contact with the bodily fluids of a person
- kissing, hugging, touching, or sharing eating or
drinking utensils with an infected person
You can also contract SARS by touching a surface
contaminated with respiratory droplets from an infected person and then
touching your eyes, mouth, or nose. The disease may also be spread through the
air, but researchers have not confirmed this.
How Is SARS Diagnosed?
Various lab tests have been developed to detect the SARS
virus. During the first outbreak of SARS, there were no laboratory tests for
the disease. Diagnosis was made primarily through symptoms and medical history.
Now, laboratory tests can be performed on nasal and throat swabs or blood samples.
A chest X-ray or CT scan may also reveal signs of pneumonia characteristic of
Can SARS Cause Complications?
Most of the fatalities associated with SARS result from
respiratory failure. SARS can also lead to heart and liver failure. The group
most at risk of developing complications is people over 60 who have been
diagnosed with another chronic condition.
How Can SARS Be Treated?
There is no confirmed treatment that works for every person
who has SARS. Antiviral medications and steroids are sometimes given to reduce
lung swelling, but aren’t effective for everyone.
Supplemental oxygen or a ventilator may be prescribed if
necessary. In severe cases, blood plasma from someone who has already recovered
from SARS may also be administered. However, there is not yet enough evidence
to prove that these treatments are effective.
What Is the Outlook for SARS?
Researchers are currently working on a vaccine for SARS, but
there have been no human trials for any potential vaccine. Because there’s no
confirmed treatment or cure for SARS, it’s important to take as many preventive
measures as possible.
Here are some of the best ways to prevent transmission of
SARS if you’re in close contact with someone who’s been diagnosed with the
- Wash your hands frequently.
- Wear disposable gloves if touching any infected
- Wear a surgical mask when in the same room with
a person with SARS.
- Disinfect surfaces that may have been
contaminated with the virus.
- Wash all personal items, including bedding and
utensils, used by a person with SARS.
Moreover, follow all of the above steps for at least 10 days
after the symptoms of SARS have gone away. Keep children home from school if
they develop a fever or any breathing problems after coming in contact with
someone with SARS.