Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS)

Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS)

ˇ        What is Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome?
ˇ     What are the signs and symptoms?
ˇ      What is the difference between a suspect and a probable case?
ˇ      How long is the incubation period?
ˇ      How long is a person with SARS infectious to others?
ˇ      How is SARS spread?
ˇ      Who is most at risk of contracting the virus?
ˇ      What is the risk to the public?
ˇ      What is the cause of SARS?
ˇ      What is a corona virus?
ˇ      What is the treatment for the virus?
ˇ      Is there a vaccine?
ˇ      What can I do to protect myself?
ˇ      Is there a test for the virus?
ˇ      Where can I get more information?

What is Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS)?

SARS is the term used to describe a serious respiratory illness, which was first reported in parts of East and South East Asia in February 2003, and later in other countries in the world. Because this is a new virus, knowledge about SARS is constantly evolving.

What are the signs and symptoms?

SARS usually begins with a fever greater than 100.4 F [>38.0 C]. Other symptoms can include headache, an overall feeling of discomfort, and body aches. Some people also experience mild respiratory symptoms. After two to seven days, SARS patients may develop a dry cough and have trouble breathing.

What is the difference between a suspect and a probable Case?

Suspect SARS cases have fever, respiratory illness, and recent travel to an affected area with community transmission of SARS and/or contact with a suspect SARS patient. Probable cases meet the criteria for suspect case and also have chest x-ray evidence of pneumonia or respiratory distress syndrome.

How long is the incubation Period?

The incubation period for SARS is usually 2 to 7 days; however, isolated reports have suggested that the incubation period may be as long as 10 days.

How long is a person with SARS infectious to others?

The information at this stage suggests that people are most likely to be infectious when they have symptoms, such as fever or cough. However, it is not known how long before or after their symptoms begin that patients with SARS might be able to transmit the disease to others.

How is SARS spread?

The primary way that SARS appears to spread is by close person-to-person contact. Most cases of SARS have involved people who cared for or lived with someone with SARS, or had direct contact with infectious material (for example, respiratory secretions) from a person who has SARS.

Potential ways in which SARS can be spread include touching the skin of other people or objects that are contaminated with infectious droplets and then touching your eye(s), nose, or mouth. This can happen when someone who is sick with SARS coughs or sneezes droplets onto themselves, other people, or nearby surfaces. It also is possible that SARS can be spread more broadly through the air or by other ways that are currently not known. The virus can live on surfaces for at least 24 hours and even longer in human faeces.

Who is most at risk of contracting the virus?

Cases of SARS continue to be reported primarily among people who have had direct close contact with an infected person, such as those sharing a household with a SARS patient and health-care workers while caring for a SARS patient. Latest research suggests that SARS can kill one in five and is even more lethal for elderly people.

What is the risk to the public?

The risk of developing SARS to anyone who has not been to the affected parts of the world is very low. It is important however that people keep watch in order to identify any possible cases of this illness.

What is the cause of SARS?

International experts have detected a previously unrecognised corona virus in patients with SARS. This new corona virus is the leading hypothesis for the cause of SARS. However, other viruses are still under investigation as potential causes.

What is a Corona virus?

Corona viruses are a large family of viruses that cause respiratory infections. They are the second most common cause of the common cold, after another family of viruses called rhinoviruses. The virus that has been found associated with SARS cases is a new type of corona virus not seen before.

What is the Treatment for the virus?

Supportive treatment is provided for the symptoms of SARS. Antibiotics and antiviral drugs are being used to treat the illness, but there is no specific treatment against the virus.

Is there a vaccine?

There is no vaccine at present. It may be some years before a vaccine can be developed, tested and put on the market.

What can I do to protect myself?

The best advice is to be aware of the symptoms of this illness, particularly if you have recently travelled to areas covered in the Department of Health Children travel advisory and seek medical advice should you develop them within 10 days of your return.

Is there a test for SARS?

Researchers in several countries are working towards developing fast and accurate laboratory tests for the SARS. The current WHO advice is that a positive test indicates that a person has SARS. However, a negative test does not rule out SARS.

Where can I get more information?

Telephone the SARS hotline at 1800 45 45 0000.

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