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Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) (cont.)

When Should Someone Seek Medical Care for Possible Exposure to SARS?

Acquiring SARS infection is usually associated with travel to a country where SARS has been reported or contact with an ill person who has just returned from that country. People who may be have been exposed to SARS or SARS-like outbreaks in the future should seek medical care immediately and are advised to call a doctor if a fever or respiratory symptoms develop and to tell health-care workers that possible exposure to SARS may have occurred.

What Specialists Treat SARS?

Primary-care physicians may treat the symptoms of mild SARS infections in some patients. Moderate to severe SARS-infected patients may require infectious-disease, critical-care, pulmonologists, and hospitalists as specialists to help care for these patients. In the U.S., CDC specialists should be informed immediately if an outbreak of SARS or SARS-like illness occurs.

What Tests Do Physicians Use to Diagnose SARS?

Initial tests for people thought to have SARS include the following:

  • Chest X-ray films
  • Pulse oximetry (a test in which a probe connected to a computer is placed on the finger or ear to measure oxygen saturation in the blood)
  • Blood cultures
  • Sputum (fluid from the respiratory tract) Gram stain and culture
  • If SARS virus infection is suspected, the CDC should be notified; the CDC has specialized tests (RT-PCR and EIA) to identify the virus. These tests are not usually available to most laboratories although some state labs may have availability.
  • Testing for viral agents such as influenza A, influenza B, bird flu, West Nile virus, anthrax, and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) may be done to rule out these problems or infections that may be confused with SARS, especially if there is no initial suspicion that the problem is caused by SARS and if SARS testing is not readily available.
  • Urinary antigen testing for Legionella and pneumococcal species (two causes of bacterial pneumonia)
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 11/21/2017

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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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