Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) - Overview
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
(33 out of 100) of the people with SARS become ill and then recover.4 The illness gets worse in two-thirds (67 out of 100) of the people and
is likely to lead to hospitalization.
The risk of dying from SARS
depends on a person's age and health. The greatest risk is to people older than
65 and those with chronic illnesses, such as
diabetes and heart disease. About 9 out of 10 people
infected with SARS recover. About 1 out of 10 people
infected with SARS dies.5, 6
How can I avoid being infected with SARS?
The best way to prevent
the spread of SARS is to avoid areas where there is an outbreak and avoid
contact with people who may be infected. You can also reduce your risk of
infection by washing your hands often with soap or alcohol hand cleaners. If an
outbreak occurs, try to avoid large public gatherings. The CDC does not
recommend wearing face masks in public to prevent infection, although this is a
common practice in Asian countries such as Japan.
currently trying to develop vaccines to
prevent SARS infection.
But no vaccines are being tested in humans