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.

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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-associated coronavirus or 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. Severely affected people experience respiratory failure and may need mechanical ventilation.
  • 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 6/25/2015

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