Severe acute respiratory syndrome

What is it?

SARS is a viral respiratory illness caused by a coronavirus. It was first reported in Asia in February of 2003, it then spread to more than a dozen countries in North America, South America, Asia, and Europe before the global outbreak of 2003 was contained. (Serious form of pneumonia)

The 2003 SARS epidemic

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), a total of 8,098 people worldwide became sick with SARS during the 2003 outbreak. Of these, 774 died. In the United States, only eight people had laboratory evidence of the SARS infection. All of these people had traveled to other parts of the world with SARS. It did not spread more widely in the community in the United States.

Symptoms (complications)

SARS begins with a high fever (temperature greater than 100.4°F. Other symptoms may include headaches, an overall feeling of discomfort, difficulty breathing and body aches. After 2-7 days of being infected some people developed a dry cough, some developed pneumonia. Respiratory failure, liver failure, or heart failure may occurr. Only about 10% of people who were diagnosed died, but death is a possibility (usually in elderly people)


Since 2004, there have not been any known cases of SARS reported in the world.


-Abnormal lung sounds while listening to the chest with a stethoscope

-Changes on a chest x-ray or chest CT show pneumonia

-Arterial blood tests

  • -Blood clotting tests
  • -Blood chemistry tests
  • -Chest x-ray or chest CT scan
  • -Complete blood count (CBC)
  • Target audience

    Anyone. This disease spreads by close person to person contact. The virus that causes SARS is thought to be transmitted most readily by respiratory droplets (droplet spread) produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes.


  • -Antibiotics to treat bacteria that cause pneumonia
  • -Antiviral medications (although how well they work for SARS is unknown)
  • -High doses of steroids to reduce swelling in the lungs
  • -Oxygen, breathing support (mechanical ventilation), or chest therapy