Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) - Overview
What are the symptoms? continued...
The incubation period—the time
from when a person is first exposed to SARS until symptoms appear—is usually 3
to 7 days but may be as long as 10 days. Experts believe a person can spread
the illness to others only while he or she has symptoms. As a precaution,
though, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends
that people who have SARS stay home, except for doctor visits, until 10 days
after their symptoms have gone away.
If you think you may have SARS, be sure to call your doctor before you go in to get checked. The doctor will need to make sure you do not infect other people.
How is SARS diagnosed?
Your doctor may suspect
SARS if you have a fever and you either have traveled to
a SARS-affected area or have in the past 10
days been around a person who has SARS.
Your doctor may order several tests to
find out the cause of your symptoms. A chest
X-ray may be done if you are short of breath or
coughing. A blood sample,
sputum sample, or nasal swab may be done to detect
bacteria or viruses. Your doctor may suspect that you have SARS if tests rule
out any other cause for your symptoms, especially if you had contact with
someone who has SARS or you traveled to an area experiencing a SARS outbreak.
In this case, blood tests may be done to detect substances in your blood (antibodies) that form to fight the SARS virus.
You will need at least two tests for antibodies done on separate days to
confirm an infection. You also may have tests to detect the genetic material
(RNA) of the SARS virus. RNA testing is not available
How is it treated?
Severe cases of SARS often
require a hospital stay, especially if breathing problems develop. You will be
placed in isolation to prevent passing the disease to others. Various
corticosteroids and the antiviral medicine
ribavirin—have been used to treat SARS. But no medicine is known to cure the
illness. Doctors continue to search for an effective treatment. One early study
showed that the antiviral medicine interferon alfacon-1, taken along with
corticosteroids, may help in the treatment of SARS by increasing the amount of
oxygen in the blood.3