Overview on SARS

Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) is considered as a serious form of viral pneumonia. This is a new disease and the virus responsible was initially identified in 2003.

SARS has been identified as a worldwide health threat and the epidemic back in 2003 affected many individuals in China, Canada, Hong Kong, Singapore and Vietnam before spreading around the globe. The disease caused hundreds of fatalities before it was successfully contained.

Symptoms of SARS

The symptoms of SARS are strikingly similar to pneumonia which includes the following:

  • Dry cough
  • Fever higher than 100.4 degrees F
  • Difficulty breathing including shortness of breath
  • Muscle stiffness
  • Headache
  • Malaise
  • Appetite loss
  • Confusion
  • Rash
  • Diarrhea

The breathing issues initially manifest within 2-10 days after the individual was exposed to the virus.

The breathing issues initially manifest within 2-10 days after the individual was exposed to the virus. The individual who presents these symptoms will be quarantined if he/she has a history of travelling abroad. The quarantine will last for 10 days in order to prevent the virus from spreading.

The factors that can increase the risk for acquiring the disease include close contact with an individual diagnosed with SARS and a history of travel to China, Canada as well as Hong Kong, Vietnam, Singapore or any country reported with SARS outbreak.

How SARS spreads

SARS can spread when an infected individual coughs, sneezes or comes into face-to-face contact another individual. The face-to-face contact includes the following:

  • Contact with bodily fluids of an individual with SARS
  • Caring for someone with SARS
  • Hugging, kissing, touching or sharing of utensils with an infected individual

SARS can also be acquired by direct contact with a surface that has been tainted by respiratory droplets from an infected individual and then touching the eyes, nose or mouth. The disease can also spread via the air but this has not been confirmed. As a transmittable disease, principles of safety must be observed to prevent transmission of the disease. To learn to recognize and manage the symptoms of this disease, read here.

Diagnosing SARS

There are various lab tests that have been developed to detect the SARS virus. During the first outbreak, there were no laboratory tests for the disease. A diagnosis is made through the symptoms and medical history. With the advancements made, laboratory tests can be carried out on nasal and throat swabs or blood samples. A CT scan or X-ray can also reveal indications of pneumonia that are characteristic of SARS.


There are measures to prevent the transmission of SARS if in close contact with an individual who has been diagnosed with the disease.

  • Wash hands regularly
  • Use disposable gloves when contact with any infected bodily fluids could not be avoided
  • Use a clinical mask when staying in the same area with a SARS patient
  • Wash all personal items including utensils and bedding used by the individual diagnosed with SARS
  • Disinfect all surfaces that has been contaminated by the virus

It is important to follow these measures at least 10 days after the symptoms of SARS have gone away. Additionally, children should stay at home if they develop fever or any breathing issues after contact with an individual who has SARS.

Treatment of SARS

Those who are diagnosed with SARS are given antibiotics to treat pneumonia. Steroids and antiviral medications are also given to minimize the lung swelling. Supplemental oxygen or ventilator can be prescribed if needed. In severe cases, blood plasma from an individual who recovered from SARS can also be administered. Nevertheless, there is not yet enough evidence to prove that these treatments are effective.