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Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS)

Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) Overview

Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) is a life-threatening viral respiratory illness caused by a coronavirus known as SARS-associated coronavirus (SARS-CoV, but usually shortened to SARS or SARS virus). SARS is associated with a flu-like syndrome, which may progress into pneumonia, respiratory failure, and sometimes death. The SARS virus is believed to have originated in the Guangdong Province in southern China and has subsequently spread around the world. China and its surrounding countries have witnessed the greatest numbers of SARS-related cases and death.

SARS history is short. SARS virus was first reported in 2002 in Asia and cases were reported until mid-year 2003. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), as of July 2003, a total of 8,437 people worldwide became ill with SARS and 813 died during the outbreak or epidemic. Illness was reported in more than 30 countries and on five continents. Only eight people in the United States acquired SARS infection, and all of these people had traveled outside of the U.S. No deaths due to SARS occurred in the U.S. The good news about SARS is that no outbreaks or epidemics have occurred since 2004.

Because of the rapid and unexpected spread of SARS and because little is known about the virus, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the WHO continue to closely monitor the SARS situation. Guidelines and medical information can be found at the CDC and WHO Web sites.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 6/24/2015

How is SARS treated?

Severe cases of SARS often require hospitalization, especially if breathing problems develop. You will be placed in isolation to prevent passing the disease to others. Various medicines -- including corticosteroids and the antiviral medicine ribavirin -- have been used to treat SARS. But no medicine is known to cure the illness. Doctors continue to search for an effective treatment. One early study showed that the antiviral medicine interferon alfacon-1, taken along with corticosteroids, may help in the treatment of SARS by increasing the amount of oxygen in the blood.3



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Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) »

Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) is a serious, potentially life-threatening viral infection caused by a previously unrecognized virus from the Coronaviridae family.

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