Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) is a viral respiratory illness caused by a coronavirus, called SARS-associated coronavirus. Initial symptoms are flu-like and may include fever, myalgia, lethargy symptoms, cough, sore throat, and other nonspecific symptoms. The only symptom common to all patients appears to be a fever above 38 °C (100 °F). SARS may eventually lead to shortness of breath and/or pneumonia, either direct viral pneumonia or secondary bacterial pneumonia.
HOW IS SARS DIAGNOSED?
The health care provider may hear abnormal lung sounds while listening to the chest with a stethoscope. In most people with SARS, a chest x-ray or chest CT show pneumonia, which is typical with SARS.
Tests used to diagnose SARS might include:
• Arterial blood tests
• Blood clotting tests
• Blood chemistry tests
• Chest x-ray or chest CT scan
• Complete blood count (CBC)
• Antibody tests for SARS
• Direct isolation of the SARS virus
• Rapid polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test for SARS virus
HOW IS SARS TREATED?
People suspected of having SARS should be kept isolated in the hospital.
Treatment may include:
Antibiotics to treat bacteria that cause pneumonia
Antiviral medicines (although how well they work for SARS is unknown)
High doses of steroids to reduce swelling in the lungs (it is not known how well they work)
Oxygen, breathing support (mechanical ventilation), or chest therapy
In some serious cases, the liquid part of blood from people who have already recovered from SARS has been given as a treatment.
DID YOU KNOW?
SARS first appeared in China in November 2002. Within a few months, SARS spread worldwide, carried by unsuspecting travelers. SARS showed how quickly infection can spread in a highly mobile and interconnected world. On the other hand, concerted international cooperation allowed health experts to quickly contain the spread of the disease. There has been no known transmission of SARS anywhere in the world since 2004.