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.

What kind of specialists treat SARS?

Most people with SARS would see a primary-care provider or an emergency-medicine doctor as illness rapidly progressed. Depending on the stage of illness, they would be admitted to a hospital as oxygen levels decreased. In the hospital, a person with SARS would likely be managed by a hospitalist or critical-care doctor, with consultations to an infectious-disease doctor and a lung doctor (pulmonologist).

How do health-care professionals diagnose SARS?

SARS-CoV is detected using enzyme-linked immunoassays (EIA) or reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests, which are available through the CDC. These tests are performed on respiratory secretions or blood.

These tests are performed only when the patient's history makes SARS likely and usually in consultation with infectious-disease doctors, public-health authorities, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. If a test is positive, it will be confirmed by the CDC. Other tests may be abnormal, but they are not specific for SARS. The chest X-ray shows pneumonia, which may look patchy at first. White blood cells and platelet (clotting cell) counts in the blood are usually decreased.

SARS should be considered in people with the appropriate symptoms who work with SARS-CoV in a laboratory or who have recent exposure to infected people or mammals in Southern China. No human cases of SARS have been reported since 2004 in the United States, so it is extremely unlikely that a patient in the U.S. will have SARS without a history of such exposure. It is possible, however, that a new outbreak might occur. Therefore, SARS (along with other similar viruses) should also be considered when there is a cluster of unusually severe pneumonia that has no other explanation.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 9/22/2016

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