SARS- Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome


SARS first appeared in Asia in 2003. It spread all over the world, but was eventually contained. Those who contracted SARS experience fever, body aches, and breathing troubles. Many develop pneumonia. Because it is highly contagious, isolating suspected cases is very important. Various medication, including steroids, antibiotics, and anti-viral drugs, are used to treat SARS.

In 2003, SARS first appeared. SARS stands for Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, and is caused by a coronavirus. The first cases appeared in Asia in 2003, but spread to many other countries before containment of the disease. Although no known cases of SARS have appeared since 2004, the Centers for Disease Control, or CDC, consider SARS to be a select agent, which is any bacterium, virus, or toxin potentially capable of causing widespread harm to public health and safety.

The first symptom of SARS is usually a fever of greater than 100.4°F. Other symptoms may appear after that, including:

  • Headache
  • Chills and shaking
  • Overall discomfort
  • Body aches
  • Diarrhea in some cases
  • Respiratory symptoms, including a dry cough
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Pneumonia
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea and vomiting

Scientists believe the coronavirus that causes SARS likely jumped from small mammals to humans somewhere in Asia. Spreading the SARS virus from person to person requires close contact with an infected individual. Most infection likely goes from one person to the next via respiratory droplets present in coughs and sneezes. Close contact, according to the CDC, generally means being within 3 feet of a person who then coughs or sneezes virus containing droplets.

In order for infection to occur, those droplets must get into the mucus membranes of the nose, mouth, or eyes. This means kissing, plus sharing food and drinks may lead to SARS infection. Additionally, if an individual touches a contaminated surface and then touches their eyes, nose, or mouth, they may contract the virus.

Diagnosing SARS requires evaluation of several important factors. Physicians use stethoscopes to detect abnormal sounds in the lungs. Various blood tests not only monitor several factors important in assessing a patient’s conditions. Additionally, there are SARS antibody tests to indicate presence of the disease. However, not all tests identify SARS in its early stages, and catching the disease early is vitally important. Chest X-rays or CT will indicate if pneumonia is present, which is quite common in SARS.

Another important factor in diagnosing SARS is finding out if the patient, or someone close to them, was recently in a region where SARS outbreaks occurred previously, specifically, China, Hong Kong, or Taiwan). The SARS incubation period is usually two to seven days, according to the CDC, although some cases it may last 10, or even 14 days. A person with SARS is generally considered contagious only when there are active symptoms.

Treating this illness first involves isolating any individuals with suspected cases of SARS, due to its highly contagious nature. Once in isolation, SARS patients usually receive:

  • Antibiotics to combat pneumonia-causing bacteria
  • Antiviral medications
  • Steroids
  • Oxygen and breathing support
  • Chest therapy1

Beyond that, the CDC recommends anyone with SARS receive the same treatment as that for “any serious community-acquired atypical pneumonia.”

SARS remains on watch lists due to its highly contagious nature. Since the initial outbreak, however, health officials now possess a better understanding of how to contain potential epidemics.



Additional Diseases Info:

Asthma infographic


alveolus air sac where gas exchange takes place.
angina chest pain.
aorta blood vessel that delivers oxygen-rich blood from the left ventricle to the body; it is the largest blood vessel in the body.
apex top portion of the upper lobes of the lungs.
atrium one of the two receiving chambers of the heart.
base bottom portion of lower lobes, located just above the diaphragm.
blood pressure pressure of blood against the walls of a blood vessel or heart chamber.
bronchiolitis inflammation that involves the bronchioles (small airways).
bronchoscopy the examination of the bronchi (the main airways of the lungs) using a flexible tube (bronchoscope). Bronchoscopy helps to evaluate and diagnose lung problems, assess blockages, obtain samples of tissue and/or fluid, and/or to help remove a foreign body.
bronchus large airways; lung divides into right and left bronchi.
cardiac output total amount of blood being pumped by the heart over a particular period of time.
catheter thin, flexible medical tube; one use is to insert it into a blood vessel to measure blood pressure.
constrict tighten; narrow.
cyanosis bluish color in the skin because of insufficient oxygen.
diaphragm primary muscle used for respiration, located just below the lung bases.
diastolic pressure lowest pressure to which blood pressure falls between contractions of the ventricles.
dilate relax; expand.
dyspnea sensation of difficulty in breathing.
edema swelling due to the buildup of fluid.
endothelial cells the delicate lining, only one cell thick, of the organs of circulation.
expiration exhaling; giving off carbon dioxide.
heartbeat one complete contraction of the heart.
hyperactive describes a situation in which a body tissue is especially likely to have an exaggerated reaction to a particular situation.
hypertension abnormally high blood pressure.
hypotension abnormally low blood pressure.
inspiration inhaling; taking in oxygen.
lobectomy removal of an entire lobe of the lung.
lung volume the amount of air the lungs hold.
mean blood pressure average blood pressure, taking account of the rise and fall that occurs with each heartbeat. It is often estimated by multiplying the diastolic pressure by two, adding the systolic pressure, and then dividing this sum by three.
palpitation sensation of rapid heartbeats.
perfusion flow.
pleura membrane that covers the outside of the lung.
pneumonectomy removal of an entire lung.
pulmonary artery blood vessel delivering oxygen-poor blood from the right ventricle to the lungs.
pulmonary hypertension abnormally high blood pressure in the arteries of the lungs.
smooth muscle muscle that performs automatic tasks, such as constricting blood vessels.
spirogram record of the amounts of air being moved in and out of the lungs.
syncope fainting; temporary loss of consciousness.
systemic relating to a process that affects the body generally; in this instance, the way in which blood is supplied through the aorta to all body organs except the lungs.
systolic pressure the highest pressure to which blood pressure rises with the contraction of the ventricles.
vasodilator agent that widens blood vessels.
ventilation movement of air (gases) in and out of the lungs.
ventricle one of the two pumping chambers of the heart; right ventricle receives oxygen-poor blood from the right atrium and pumps it to the lungs through the pulmonary artery; left ventricle receives oxygen-rich blood from the left atrium and pumps it to the body through the aorta.