Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome



Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) is a respiratory infection that was first identified in a 2003 outbreak.
The Respiratory System
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SARS is caused by a specific group of viruses. The viruses are spread from droplets in the air. The droplets come from spray when a sick person sneezes or coughs. Viruses can also be picked up from objects that an ill person has touched.

Risk Factors

Factors that may increase your chance of developing SARS include:


SARS requires care from your doctor. If you suspect you have this condition, contact your doctor right away.
SARS may cause:


You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done.
Your body fluids and waste products may be tested. This can be done with:
The oxygen level in your blood may be measured. This can be done with pulse oximetry.
Images may be taken of your body structures. This can be done with a chest x-ray .


There are currently no medications to treat or cure SARS. Viral infections cannot be treated with antibiotics and current antiviral drugs have not had any effect.
Researchers are looking for ways to shorten the course and severity of the infection with:
The symptoms of SARS will be treated with oxygen therapy if it is needed. If you are having difficulty breathing, you may be given oxygen through a tube or mask. More severe problems may require a machine to help you breathe.


To help reduce your chance of getting SARS, take these steps:


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

World Health Organization


Health Canada

Public Health Agency of Canada


Lu P, Zhou B, et al. Chest x-ray imaging of patients with SARS. Chin Med J. 2003;116(7):972-975.

Severe acute respiratory syndrome. American Lung Association website. Available at: Accessed December 22, 2014.

Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: Updated April 16, 2013. Accessed December 22, 2014.

Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS). EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: Updated February 10, 2014. Accessed December 22, 2014.

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