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Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS)

Verified By Apollo General Physician November 15, 2022 1562 0
Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome
Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome


Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome or SARS is a respiratory viral infection caused by SARS-associated coronavirus (SARS-CoV virus). The virus outbreak occurred in 2003, infecting over 8,000 people and claiming 774 lives. The good news is that the outbreak was over by July 2003, and since then, there have been no reported cases. SARS-CoV is a severe form of pneumonia that causes breathing problems, high fever, and body aches. SARS is contagious and spreads through air droplets if you come in close contact with the infected person. 

What Is Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS)?

Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS-CoV) is a viral illness that spreads through air droplets of the saliva of an infected person. The disease attacks the respiratory system of patients and is highly contagious; it can spread via direct contact with the SARS-infected and indirectly from contaminated surfaces and objects. The incubation period, or the time between infection and appearance of symptoms, is two to seven days. In some cases, it may be around ten days.

What Are the Causes and Symptoms of SARS?

SARS-associated coronavirus may cause Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome. The initial symptoms are similar to common cold and flu, which may further lead to breathing issues. A person suffering from SARS may show the following symptoms:

  • High fever (body temperature over 100.4 F/38 C)
  • Body aches and muscle pains
  • Headache
  • Diarrhea
  • Dry cough and sore throat
  • Breathing problem leading to shortness of breath
  • Loss of appetite
  • Drop in the blood oxygen level.

When Should You See a Doctor? 

SARS diseases can become serious if not contained quickly. If you develop persistent flu-like symptoms such as high fever, dry cough, muscle ache, and breathing issues after travelling abroad or close contact with a SARS patient. You must consult a doctor immediately. 

How Can You Prevent SARS?

SARS can be prevented by following the guidelines and appropriate behavior.

  • In case of a SARS outbreak, avoid traveling and follow official guidelines
  • Maintain appropriate physical distancing 
  • Frequent handwashing with soap or alcohol-based disinfectant
  • Use of surgical masks and goggles
  • Dispose of/Wash personal items used by SARS infected persons.
  • Disinfect contaminated surfaces like doorknobs, tables, mobile phones, and elevator buttons.

What Are the Risk Factors in Contracting SARS?

Chances of catching SARS infection are higher in the following situations :

  • Travel history in a country with SARS spread
  • Close contact with SARS-CoV infected persons
  • Health-care professionals involved in SARS treatment or care

In most cases, SARS infected people recover after mild symptoms; however, there are chances of complications such as:

What Is the Treatment for SARS?

There is no treatment available for Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). However, Doctors can contain the SARS-CoV by supportive treatment based on the patient’s symptoms.

  • Antiviral Medication
  • Steroids
  • Supplemental Oxygen
  • Ventilator Support in critical cases
  • Fluids


SARS doesn’t have a specific treatment; hence prevention is the best way to keep yourself safe. However, if you develop , do see a doctor immediately for a timely diagnosis. In most cases, the SARS symptoms decrease within ten days. It is crucial to keep yourself or any known person with infection in isolation during the period of the infection.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Is SARS the same as Covid-19?

No, although both are respiratory infections caused by types of coronavirus. The SARS outbreak happened in 2003 because of unidentified SARS-associated coronavirus, and there have been no cases reported since then; it doesn’t have any vaccination or approved cure. Covid-19 is currently impacting the world, and there have been multiple effective vaccines available to develop immunity against the virus. 

I have flu-like symptoms and breathing trouble. Can I recover on my own if I isolate myself entirely at home?

You should consult a doctor immediately. Until the time for illness or flu gets diagnosed, you should not try any remedy or treatment yourself. Your doctor can advise if the infection is mild and can monitor at home .

 Is there any specific test for SARS?

Yes, there are various tests available to diagnose SARS, including:

  • Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test
  • A reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) test
  • Serologic testing to check antibodies (substance developed in the body to fight the infection)
  • Virus Culture Test

How long do the symptoms remain in SARS disease?

The initial symptoms start 2-7 days after getting infected. Typically, people afected with SARS  take around 10-15 days to recover from symptoms. Please note that SARS is most contagious during the second week of infection, and hence the infected person must remain in isolation under medical supervision. 

Verified By Apollo General Physician

Our expert general medicine specialists verify the clinical accuracy of the content to deliver the most trusted source of information, making the management of health an empowering experience.

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