What Is SARS?

Severe acute respiratory syndrome — or SARS (search) — is a respiratory illness that has been reported in Asia, North America and Europe. It is an atypical pneumonia of unknown aetiology, and was recognized at the end of February 2003


• Fever greater than 100.4°F.
• Headache
• Overall feeling of discomfort
• Body aches
• Some people experience mild respiratory symptoms.
• After 2 to 7 days, SARS patients may develop dry cough and have trouble breathing.

How SARS Spreads

SARS appears to be primarily spread by close person-to-person contact. Most cases have involved people who cared for or lived with someone with SARS, or who had direct contact with infectious material (such as respiratory secretions) from an infected person.

Potential ways in which SARS can be spread include touching the skin of contaminated people or objects and then touching your eyes, nose or mouth. This can happen when a SARS-infected person coughs or sneezes droplets on 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 unknown.

Who Is at Risk

Cases continue to be reported among people who have had direct close contact with an infected person. In the United States, there is no indication of community spread at this time. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) (search) is monitoring the situation closely.

Possible Cause

Scientists have detected a previously unrecognized coronavirus in SARS patients. The new coronavirus is the leading hypothesis for the cause of SARS, though other viruses are still being investigated as possible causes.


The CDC has issued guidelines for people who may be affected by this outbreak.

• The CDC advises that people planning to visit mainland China and Hong Kong, Singapore and Hanoi, Vietnam, may want to consider postponing their trips until further notice.
• The CDC has also has issued a "travel alert" for Toronto, Canada. It recommends that visitors to Toronto observe precautions.
• People exhibiting SARS symptoms of SARS should consult a health-care provider. Patients should tell their health-care provider about any recent travel to places where SARS has been reported or about any contact with someone who had these symptoms.
• For family members caring for someone with SARS, the CDC has developed interim infection control recommendations. These precautions should be followed for 10 days after the respiratory symptoms and fever are gone. During that period, SARS patients should limit any interactions outside the home.

More Information:

• CDC SARS page
• World Health Organization (WHO) SARS page
• Search for SARS information

Source: CDC, WHO