Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) is a form of pneumonia, caused by a virus that was isolated in 2003. Infection with the SARS virus results in severe respiratory distress [difficulty breathing ] and can result in death. Symptoms appear between 2 to 10 days after exposure.
Symptoms start with a Fever (higher than 38C or 100F), muscle aches, chills, and dry cough. Acute lung inflammation is normal among affected persons. After 3 or 4 days, respiratory symptoms grow more severe. 80% to 90% of infected people will begin to recover after 6 to 7 days. The remaining 10% to 20% go on to develop severe breathing problems and may need to be placed on a ventilator to breathe. The risk of death is high for this group, and may to be linked to pre-existing health conditions.
This communicable respiratory infection, SARS, was identified as a new disease by World Health Organization (WHO) epidemiologist, Dr. Carlo Urbani in 2003. He diagnosed this disease in a 48-year-old Chinese-American businessman who had been traveling from the Guangdong province of China, through Hong Kong and on to Hanoi, Vietnam. The businessman died from the condition. Dr. Urbani, at the age of 46, also died from SARS on March 29, 2003.
SARS was spreading. As of 10 April 2003, there were 2,781 known cases and 111 deaths from SARS. Within a 6 week time span of its discovery, SARS had infected thousands of people around the world, including people in Asia, Europe, Australia, Africa, and both North and South America.
The WHO [World Health Organization }identified SARS as a global health threat, and issued an unprecedented travel advisory. Daily updates tracked the spread of SARS. It wasn't clear whether SARS would become a global pandemic, or would be less aggressive.
SARS spreads through person-to-person contact with the infected person. There have also been cases where there was no personal contact and the disease was spread by air born respiratory droplets which infected others. It is also possible that SARS can be transmitted from objects that have become contaminated.
There currently is no treatment to kill the SARS virus. At this time, treatment for SARS is focused on relief of symptoms and prevention and/or treatment of complications as the body fights the virus.
Treatment requires hospitalization for intensive care. This care may include: Breathing support from a ventilator, Medications, including antibiotics, steroids, and/or antivirals, Intravenous (IV) fluids, Prevention of secondary infections, nursing care.
Blood tests show a reduction in the number of white blood cells - that fight off infection and disease. X-rays show areas in the lungs that appear to be blotched.
Research scientists continue to look for new ways to fight the SARS virus; and are also trying to develop a vaccine to prevent SARS.
At this time, there is no indication of wide spread SARS in th United States. The CDC will continue to monitor any and all cases very closely.