Severe acute respiratory syndrome

A photograph of two doctors reading a radiograph All countries must remain vigilant for the recurrence of SARS and maintain their capacity to detect and respond to the re-emergence of SARS should it occur. Photo credit: WHOSevere Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) is a viral respiratory illness caused by a coronavirus, called SARS-associated coronavirus (SARS-CoV). It is considered the first emerging epidemic of the 21st century. SARS was first reported in Asia in February 2003 and spread to more than two dozen countries in North America, South America, Europe, and Asia before it was contained.

SARS is spread by close person-to-person contact. The virus that causes SARS is thought to be transmitted most readily by respiratory droplets. In general, SARS symptoms include high fever, headache, an overall feeling of discomfort, and body aches. Some people also have mild respiratory symptoms at the outset.

About 10 percent to 20 percent of patients have diarrhea. After 2 to 7 days, SARS patients may develop a dry cough. Most patients develop pneumonia.