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Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS)

Women Fitness (WF) provides this resource on the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) for the convenience of the public. Appearance of a link or Web site on this page does not necessarily imply endorsement of its content by the WF.

SARS, an atypical pneumonia of unknown aetiology, was recognized at the end of February 2003. The earliest known cases were identified in mid-November 2002. Since then, probable cases of SARS have been reported in 17 countries.

The current cumulative number of cases of SARS is 2781 cases with 111 deaths, officially notified by ministries of health. The global case-fatality rate for probable SARS is 4%. On the basis of present data, children appear to be less likely to present with SARS than adults.

Possible cause of SARS

Scientists at CDC and other laboratories have detected a previously unrecognized coronavirus in patients with SARS. The new coronavirus is the leading hypothesis for the cause of SARS, however, other viruses are still under investigation as potential causes.

Symptoms of SARS

In general, SARS begins with a fever greater than 100.4F (>38.0C). Other symptoms may include headache, an overall feeling of discomfort, and body aches. Some people also experience mild respiratory symptoms. After 2 to 7 days, SARS patients may develop a dry cough and have trouble breathing.

Among patients reported worldwide as of March 19, the disease has been characterized by rapid onset of high fever, myalgia, chills, rigor, and sore throat, followed by shortness of breath, cough, and radiographic evidence of pneumonia. The incubation period has generally been 3--5 days (range: 2--7 days). Laboratory findings have included thrombocytopenia and leukopenia.

How SARS spreads

The primary way that SARS appears to spread is by close person-to-person contact. Most cases of SARS have involved people who cared for or lived with someone with SARS, or had direct contact with infectious material (for example, respiratory secretions) from a person who has SARS. Potential ways in which SARS can be spread include touching the skin of other people or objects that are contaminated with infectious droplets and then touching your eye(s), nose, or mouth. This can happen when someone who is sick with SARS coughs or sneezes droplets onto themselves, other people, or nearby surfaces. It also is possible that SARS can be spread more broadly through the air or by other ways that are currently not known.

Diagnostic Testing

Laboratory diagnostic tests used at CDC to test clinical specimens for evidence of this novel coronavirus are still in development and are not available outside a research setting. Serologic testing for coronavirus antibody consists of indirect fluorescent antibody testing and enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays that are specific for antibody produced after infection. Although some patients have detectable coronavirus antibody within 14 days of illness onset, definitive interpretation of negative coronavirus antibody tests is possible only for specimens obtained > 21 days after onset of fever. For other suspected SARS cases in the United States, a second serum specimen collected > 21 days after fever onset will be necessary to determine whether infection with the novel coronavirus can be documented. A reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) test specific for RNA from the novel coronavirus has been positive within the first 10 days after fever onset in specimens from some SARS patients, but the duration of detectable viremia or viral shedding is unknown, and RT-PCR tests on samples collected during convalescence might be negative. Viral culture followed by RT-PCR also has been used to detect the novel coronavirus in some specimens.

Center for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) RECOMMENDATIONS

The Center for Disease Control has issued recommendations and guidelines for people who may be affected by this outbreak.

For individuals considering travel to affected parts of Asia:

CDC advises that people planning elective or nonessential travel to mainland China and Hong Kong, Singapore, and Hanoi, Vietnam may wish to postpone their trips until further notice. Visit the Travelers' Health web site for more information about CDCs advice to travelers.

For individuals who think they might have SARS:

People with symptoms of SARS (fever greater than 100.4F [> 38.0C] accompanied by a cough and/or difficulty breathing) should consult a health-care provider. To help the health-care provider make a diagnosis, tell them about any recent travel to places where SARS has been reported or whether there was contact with someone who had these symptoms

For family members caring for someone with SARS:

CDC has developed interim infection control recommendations for patients with suspected SARS in the household. These basic precautions should be followed for 10 days after respiratory symptoms and fever are gone. During that time, SARS patients are asked to limit interactions outside the home (not go to work, school, or other public areas).

For health-care workers:

Transmission of SARS to health-care workers appears to have occurred after close contact with sick people before recommended infection control precautions were put into use. CDC has issued interim infection control recommendations for health-care settings see Interim Domestic Infection Control Guidance in the Health-Care and Community Setting for Patients with Suspected SARS page as well as for the management of exposures to SARS in health-care and other institutional settings, see Domestic Guidance for Management of Exposures to Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) for Healthcare and Other Institutional Settings.

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Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS)

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