Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) - including symptoms, treatment and prevention
Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) is a respiratory illness caused by a virus called SARS associated coronavirus (SARS-CoV). SARS was first reported in Asia in February 2003. Over the next few months the illness spread to more than two dozen countries in Asia, North America, South America and Europe, before the SARS global outbreak in 2003 was contained. There was a second small outbreak in China in 2004.
There is no evidence at this stage of ongoing transmission anywhere in the world. It is not known if a SARS epidemic will recur.
The organism that causes SARS is a new type of virus belonging to the coronaviruses family of viruses, which is one of the virus families that cause the common cold. Coronaviruses have been found in many different animal species including birds and mammals.
Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) is a notifiable condition1
How SARS is spread
SARS-CoV is thought to have passed from animals to humans through close contact, butchering or eating undercooked meat in parts of southern China.
The main way that SARS seemed to spread was by close person-to-person contact. The virus that causes SARS is thought to be spread when an infected person talks, coughs or sneezes small droplets containing infectious agents into the air. The droplets in the air may be breathed in by those nearby. Infection may be spread by contact with hands, tissues and other articles soiled by infected nose and throat discharges. People in very close contact with a sick SARS patient are at most risk.
In addition, it is possible that the SARS virus might spread in other ways that are not currently known.
Signs and symptoms of SARS
Symptoms of SARS include:
high fever (temperature greater than 38°C), which is often the first symptom
pneumonia (lung infection or inflammation)
breathing difficulties (about 20% require artificial ventilation in an intensive care unit)
diarrhoea (in 10 to 20% of patients)
These symptoms are commonly seen with other types of infection and are not specific to SARS. During the outbreak, SARS was suspected if a patient had:
a fever of 38°C or greater
history of travel to a SARS affected area or close contact with a known SARS patient within 10 days before the fever or respiratory symptoms started.
Diagnosis of SARS
There are several laboratory tests used to detect SARS-CoV and other causes of respiratory illness.
(time between becoming infected and developing symptoms)
Usually 2 to 7 days, although it may be up to 10 days.
(time during which an infected person can infect others)
Uncertain, but is thought to be for less than 21 days after the onset of symptoms. People who are infected with the virus but do not yet have symptoms are not thought to be infectious.
Treatment for SARS
No specific antiviral treatment is available for SARS.
Prevention of SARS
Special precautions are needed for people who are suspected of having SARS and their carers. These will be made advised by public health authorities if SARS recurs.
In general, to reduce spread of respiratory infections:
Use of the information and data contained within this site or these pages is at your sole risk.
If you rely on the information on this site you are responsible for ensuring by independent verification its accuracy, currency or completeness.
This site includes links to other websites operated by community, business and government.
These linked websites will have their own terms and conditions of use and you should familiarise yourself with these.
All linked websites are linked 'as is' and the Government of South Australia:
does not sponsor, endorse or necessarily approve of any material on websites linked from or to this Site;
does not make any warranties or representations regarding the quality, accuracy, merchantability or fitness for purpose of any material on websites linked from or to this Site;
does not make any warranties or representations that material on other websites to which this site is linked does not infringe the intellectual property rights of any person anywhere in the world; and
does not authorise the infringement of any intellectual property rights contained in material in other websites by linking this site to those other websites.
If you use automatic language translation services in connection with this site you do so at your own risk.
The information and data on this site is subject to change without notice. The Government of South Australia may revise this disclaimer at any time by updating this posting.
The Government of South Australia, its agents, instrumentalities, officers and employees:
make no representations, express or implied, as to the accuracy of the information and data contained on this site
make no representations, express or implied, as to the accuracy or usefulness of any translation of the information on this site or any linked website into another language
make no representations as to the availability of the site and the availability of websites linked from or to the site
accept no liability however arising for any loss resulting from the use of the site and any information and data or reliance placed on it (including translated information and data)
make no representations, either expressed or implied, as to the suitability of the said information and data for any particular purpose
accepts no liability for any interference with or damage to a user's computer, software or data occurring in connection with or relating to this Site or its use or any website linked to this site
do not represent or warrant that applications or payments initiated through this site will in fact be received or made to the intended recipient. Users are advised to confirm the application or payment by other means.