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SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome)


Tell me more about SARS.

SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) is a disease that was first noted in Southern China in November 2002. It spread throughout Asia and eventually the rest of the world. SARS is caused by a coronavirus, which is a circular virus with protruding spikes that surround it like a crown (corona). Before the SARS outbreak was contained, over 8,000 people were sick and 774 died.

How is SARS transmitted?

SARS spreads through inhalation of respiratory droplets when an infected person coughs and/or sneezes. It can also spread through direct contact with respiratory secretions, or when a person touches an object contaminated with the SARS virus. In general, a person has to be within 3 feet of a SARS patient in order to be infected, though there have been exceptions.

What are the symptoms of SARS?

According to the CDC, "SARS begins with a high fever (temperature greater than 100.4F [>38.0C]). Other symptoms may include headache, an overall feeling of discomfort, and body aches. Some people also have mild respiratory symptoms at the outset. About 10 percent to 20 percent of patients have diarrhea. After 2 to 7 days, SARS patients may develop a dry cough. Most patients develop pneumonia." (CDC SARS Fact Sheet)

A person generally begins to show symptoms of SARS 2-7 days after becoming infected, although the incubation periodcan be as long as two weeks.

How is SARS treated?

Currently, no drugs are approved for use against SARS, and treatment usually involves hospitalization for mechanical ventilation and other treatments to improve breathing. In this manner, SARS is treated like many other community-acquired viral pneumonias.

How can I prevent SARS?

In the event of another SARS outbreak, the most important thing to do is to wash your hands frequently and thoroughly and avoid areas where SARS is spreading from person to person within the community.

CDC Info on SARS:


MDCH SARS Fact Sheet: