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Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) - Causes, Symptoms, Treatment and Prevention

Written by
Dr. Lochana
and medically reviewed by Dr. C Elanchezhian

Published on May 15, 2020 and last reviewed on Jun 01, 2020   -  4 min read



SARS is a respiratory disease caused by a virus. Read this article to know more about the causes, symptoms, and treatment.

Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) - Causes, Symptoms, Treatment and Prevention

What Is SARS?

SARS is a severe acute respiratory syndrome. It is caused by the SARS coronavirus, known as SARS-CoV. Coronaviruses cause infections in animals and humans. The SARS outbreak is highly contagious. If it leads to pneumonia, the risk becomes higher. The first case of SARS was reported in February 2003 in Asia. After a few months, the disease spread to places like South America, North America, and, Europe. SARS-CoV-2, which is a positive-sense single-stranded RNA virus that is responsible for the current COVID-19 pandemic, is a new strain of coronavirus.

What Is Viral Mutation?

A mutation can be explained as a change in the genetic material or information that is stored. Viruses are organisms that keep changing due to evolution. All the recent outbreaks worldwide have been very life-threatening. The main reason for them is a few viruses and their genetic mutations. Initially, these viruses arise from the animals, and later they are transmitted to humans. Some of the mutated viruses are:

  • SARS.

  • Bird flu. This mutated form of flu virus is found in birds. This is also called avian flu.

  • HIV. It is a mutated form of virus found in monkeys.

  • Swine flu. The virus causing swine flu has undergone mutations during the transmission from the pig.

How Is It Transmitted?

  • SARS is transmitted by direct contact with the affected person. Having direct contact with the patients might include sharing towels, soaps, plates, drinking glasses, beds, etc. These kinds of sharing behaviors might be a good attitude in a family, but when it comes to SARS, this can cause transmission by the spread of respiratory secretions. Touching the affected person should be totally avoided.

  • There is no wrong walking along with the person or sitting opposite to them. These might not cause direct contact with them. But, make sure to maintain a sufficient distance.

  • When an affected person coughs and sneezes, the sputum that is expelled from the mouth or nose gets transmitted to the other person when they touch their mouth, nose, and eyes, knowingly or unknowingly.

What Are the Symptoms of SARS?

The symptoms of SARS include:

If any severe respiratory illness is present, you might need to report to the hospital. Only a few people get diarrhea. But if you get it, the other symptoms can occur fastly. Dry cough can occur within two to five days. In severe cases, the patient might require the help of artificial oxygen.

What Is the Risk for Travelers?

At present, there are no identified cases of transmission. During the 2003 epidemic, the risk of travelers was relatively low. However, travelers should stay safe.

What Are the Complications?

The well-known complications of SARS:

  • Respiratory failure.

  • Heart failure.

  • Liver failure.

  • Pneumonia.

What Are the Risk Factors?

The common risk factors are:

  • Diabetes.

  • Hepatitis.

  • Aged people who are more than 60 years of age.

How Is It Diagnosed?

For diagnosis, your doctor will recommend you to perform a few lab tests. X-rays and CT scan might be required. If you have returned from a foreign trip, consult your doctor, and check for symptoms.

RT-PCR: Reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction is a test that can identify the virus in stool, blood, and nasal secretions.

SerologicTesting: This test can detect SARS-CoV antibodies if it is present in the blood. If the patient has antibodies, they might possibly have SARS infection.

Culture Testing: This test involves a small sample of fluid or tissue in a container and cultured. This testing method may not be reliable if it is used for diagnosis in the early stages of infection.

If there is a new outbreak of SARS, you should inform your doctor whether you are from the outbreak region. Avoid going to public places and maintain proper social distancing. If you are a healthcare professional, you should take additional precaution measures. You should particularly stay away from kids, as they may be affected soon.

What Is the Treatment Option?

  • No medications have been identified till now. Due to the fast spread of the disease, many studies are performed to identify the spread and control of the disease.

  • Isolation can be the best choice of decreasing the number of cases.

  • People with mild symptoms can stay at home. This will prevent the spreading of the disease to healthy people.

  • Hospitalized patients require therapy based on supportive treatment protocols. Fluids, oxygen, and antibiotics might be required for other infections.

What Are the Preventive Measures?

Vaccines for SARS are under intensive research. Till now, studies have been conducted only in animals. Tests are not performed in humans as it is unethical and risky. In order to prevent the recurrence of SARS, follow the safety guidelines.

  • Wash Your Hands. Washing your hands with soap and hot water is the best preventive measure. You can also use alcohol-based rubs.

  • Washing Other Objects. Use hot water and soap to wash the utensils, bedding, and clothing if you are living with a person affected by SARS.

  • Wear a Mask. It is essential to cover your mouth and nose with a surgical mask. Wearing a mask might help you stay away from any type of infection. Especially when there is an outbreak of certain respiratory illnesses, you might need a mask.

  • Use Disposable Gloves. Gloves should not only be worn by health care providers, but by all the individuals if you are in a heavy exposure area. If you are in contact with the person's body feces and fluids, it is necessary to wear disposable gloves. After you use the gloves, throw your gloves.

  • Disinfect All Surfaces. Use a proper disinfecting solution to clean the surfaces contaminated with saliva, mucus, sweat, vomit, stool, or urine.

All precautions should be followed for a minimum of 10 days, even after the symptoms are gone. Keep the children safe at home as the school may be the site of a high risk of infection. Do not allow the kids to play with pets. Always keep an eye on them. Wash the objects used by them with special care. Teach the children proper hygiene techniques.

Are you suffering from any similar illness? Call a doctor online and discuss your problems through voice calls or video calls.


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Last reviewed at:
01 Jun 2020  -  4 min read




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