SARS or Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome was discovered in 2002. It is caused by a new strain of the Corona virus, now called SARS associated Corona virus (SARS- coV)

The hallmark of the illness is its onset with flu-like symptoms and rapid progression to respiratory failure.

From its peak in 2002-2003, there has been a dramatic decline in the annual incidence with just a handful of cases reported since 2005.

Where does it occur?

SARS originated in Southern China and the majority of cases have been in China, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Singapore. Infections outside this geographic zone have been isolated and resulted from travelers having been exposed while there or while on airplanes from these areas.

How is it transmitted?

SARS-coV is transmitted by exposure to respiratory secretions from infected individuals and possibly the secretions of civet cats and other wild animals sold in live food markets.

Is it contagious from person to person?

It is contagious from person to person through respiratory secretions.

What is the risk for travelers?

At the present time given the tapering off of the outbreak, the risk is felt to be low. The highest risk is being in close contact with an infected individual in a home, healthcare or airplane setting. Live food markets where civet cats and other wild life are sold also pose a risk.

How soon after exposure will one develop symptoms?

Symptoms start anywhere from 3 – 7 days after exposure.

What are the signs and symptoms?

Symptoms are high fever, headache, muscle pain, fatigue, chills and shakes. This can progress to dry cough, shortness of breath, respiratory failure and death if good care is not available. Diarrhea is a prominent feature in some people.

Are there any lab tests to diagnose the illness?

Blood test to detect Antibodies against SARS-coV, PCR and culture of the virus from blood, sputum etc are available.

Is there any treatment?

There is no specific anti-viral treatment available at this time. Good supportive care with admission to the intensive care as needed and broad-spectrum antibiotics to cover common pneumonia till a final diagnosis is established is the best practice.

What preventive measures can be taken?

If there is an outbreak of SARS, avoid travel to that area, check at for any current outbreaks. If you are already in an area during an outbreak avoid healthcare facilities and households with ill people. Avoid live food markets Wash hands frequently, since viruses can be present on surfaces. Routine wearing of masks and gowns in public area is not recommended by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

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