SARS: Severe Acute Respiatory Syndrome

A worldwide panic was created in 2003 as a new virus, SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome), slammed its way through Asia before reaching out to over a dozen countries around the globe. The World Health Organization states that approximately 8098 people were stricken with this virus in 2003 and 774 lost their lives.

Most of the patients lived in Asia and the world was witness to the panic with televised visions of terrified residents protecting themselves with facial masks and other disposable gear. Although the virus did spread beyond Asia, the majority of cases and SARS related deaths continued to build in China, Taiwan and other neighboring countries.

SARS spreads through close human-to-human contact. Much like a cold or flu, the virus can be transmitted through the droplets from an infected person’s sneeze or cough. Although these droplets can only travel for short distances, it is possible to become ill by touching an object such as a door handle or by sharing a towel that an infected person has used. There is no evidence to suggest that SARS is an airborne virus, although this has not been entirely ruled out.

In order to reduce the possibility of infection, it is always recommended to have good hand sanitation at all times. Wash hands thoroughly for approximately 20 seconds. Do not share towels with an infected person and keep hands away from the eyes, mouth and nose.

Symptoms of SARS may take up to 10 days to appear and resemble the flu, including high fever, body aches and headache. A dry, persistent cough may also be present. Those infected with the virus will most often develop pneumonia and some may experience gastrointestinal discomfort such as diarrhea.

There is no proven treatment for a patient with SARS. Doctors may choose to prescribe antiviral drugs, but none have been proven to lessen the duration of the illness. The patient may be hospitalized depending on the severity of the illness. Here he or she will receive IV fluids and other medications that may reduce the amount of discomfort felt.

The terror that was once owned by SARS has died down since then and even temporarily replaced by the more recent Swine Flu. SARS continues to strike, but not on the same level it had in 2003. Scientists continue to work on creating a vaccine to help prevent further cases.

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