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Lung Disease & Respiratory Health Center

If You Think You Might Have SARS

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March 20, 2003 -- As word of a mysterious pneumonia spreads across the globe, healthcare providers are seeing growing numbers of "worried well" in their emergency rooms and offices who fear they may have contracted SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome).

Officials say symptoms like cough, difficulty breathing, and fever are very common during the current cold and flu season. But it's extremely unlikely that you have SARS unless you have recently traveled to Southeast Asia or had close, personal contact with someone who has.

Until a cause is identified, the World Health Organization broadly defines a case of severe acute respiratory syndrome as someone with:

  • A fever of greater than 100.4 degrees
  • One or more of the following respiratory symptoms: cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • And either close contact with a known SARS case or a history of travel to one of the affected areas within the last 10 days before the emergence of symptoms.

Officials urge anyone who develops these pneumonia symptoms after recent travel or contact with affected individuals to contact a healthcare provider and provide complete details of this travel and type of contact.

If your healthcare provider believes you might have been exposed to severe acute respiratory syndrome, he or she will conduct further tests to eliminate other potential causes for the illness. And until more is known about the cause of this mysterious pneumonia, officials recommend that doctors treat SARS as they would treat any form of unknown pneumonia.

Following the recommendations of the CDC and WHO, people thought to have SARS should be hospitalized and isolated from other patients, according to standard infectious disease treatment guidelines.

SOURCE: World Health Organization, CDC.

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