Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS)

  • Medical Author:

    Sandra Gonzalez Gompf, MD, FACP is a U.S. board-certified Infectious Disease subspecialist. Dr. Gompf received a Bachelor of Science from the University of Miami, and a Medical Degree from the University of South Florida. Dr. Gompf completed residency training in Internal Medicine at the University of South Florida followed by subspecialty fellowship training there in Infectious Diseases under the directorship of Dr. John T. Sinnott, IV.

  • Medical Editor: Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD
    Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD

    Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD

    Dr. Charles "Pat" Davis, MD, PhD, is a board certified Emergency Medicine doctor who currently practices as a consultant and staff member for hospitals. He has a PhD in Microbiology (UT at Austin), and the MD (Univ. Texas Medical Branch, Galveston). He is a Clinical Professor (retired) in the Division of Emergency Medicine, UT Health Science Center at San Antonio, and has been the Chief of Emergency Medicine at UT Medical Branch and at UTHSCSA with over 250 publications.

SARS Symptom

Shortness of Breath

Shortness of breath has many causes affecting either the breathing passages and lungs or the heart or blood vessels. An average 150-pound (70 kilogram) adult will breathe at an average rate of 14 breaths per minute at rest. Excessively rapid breathing is referred to as hyperventilation. Shortness of breath is also referred to as dyspnea.

Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) facts

  • SARS is the febrile "severe acute respiratory syndrome" that first appeared in 2003 and spread rapidly to more than two dozen countries across the world, infecting over 8,000 people and killing 774 before it could be contained in 2004.
  • SARS is caused by a coronavirus (SARS-CoV) that exists in bats and palm civets in Southern China.
  • This infection can be spread easily from close person-to-person contact (such as living in the same household) via respiratory droplets that come in contact with skin or mucous membranes (eyes, mouth, or nose).
  • Infected people become ill within a week of exposure. During the first week, nonspecific symptoms of a flu-like illness begin. This period is followed by a syndrome of "atypical" pneumonia, including dry cough, and progressively worsening shortness of breath with poor oxygenation.
  • Since these are nonspecific symptoms and findings, the diagnosis of SARS is only considered if the individual has also had specific risk factors within 10 days prior to illness.
  • If there are grounds for suspicion, respiratory secretions are sent for testing at the CDC.
  • There is no medication that is known to treat SARS. Treatment is supportive.
  • During the 2003 outbreak, approximately 25% of people had severe respiratory failure and 10% died.
  • The SARS outbreak in 2002-2003 was controlled solely by using public-health measures, such as wearing surgical masks, washing hands well, and isolating infected patients.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 9/22/2016

Subscribe to MedicineNet's Newsletters

Get the latest health and medical information delivered direct to your inbox!

By clicking Submit, I agree to the MedicineNet's Terms & Conditions & Privacy Policy and understand that I may opt out of MedicineNet's subscriptions at any time.

Health Solutions From Our Sponsors