Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome

3 Conversations

aka S.A.R.S.

The World Health Organization has identified the coronavirus - a virus family which causes the common cold - as the cause of SARS. The W.H.O. believes this is a new strain which has mutated to become more dangerous to humans.

It is believed to have originated in China's southern Guangdong province in November, 2002.

Believed to be being spread by air travel, commuters are advised to avoid unnecessary travel.

Canadian heath officials have cautioned that it may not be the only cause of the disease.

SARS appears to be spread most commonly by close person-to-person contact involving exposure to infectious droplets, and possibly by direct contact with infected body fluids.

The virus thought to cause Sars is constantly changing form, which will make developing a vaccine difficult.

Although there is no cure or vaccine (yet) for the virus, sufferers seeking early treatment can be helped by steroids and non-invasive ventilation support.


  • High fever (>38oC)

  • AND

    one or more respiratory symptoms including:
  • Dry cough.
  • Shortness of breath.
  • Difficulty breathing.

  • AND

    one or more of the following:
  • Close contact1 with a person who has been diagnosed with SARS.

  • Recent history of travel to areas reporting cases of SARS.

In addition to fever and respiratory symptoms, SARS may be associated with other symptoms including:

  • Headache.
  • Sore throat.
  • Muscular stiffness.
  • Loss of appetite.
  • Malaise.
  • Confusion.
  • Rash.
  • Diarrhea.

In some cases pneumonia has developed, with patients requiring artificial ventilation in hospital.

What they say about SARS

'As a microbiologist, I'm quite happy to say that it scares the s**t out of me. Fatality rate is around 4-7% (more if you have underlying disease or are elderly). It is untreatable (except with high doses of ribavarin, an antiviral, plus steroids - but this only helps alleviate the symptoms in some). It is spread by droplet or contact with nasopharyngeal secretions. There is no vaccine - and won't be ever as far as I can tell. It is very difficult to detect the causative virus (a coronavirus) without expensive eltron microscopes or
reverse-transcriptase PCR (though new tests should be out soon). It keeps mutating. We've had two suspected cases so far here2, but thankfully neither have been confirmed as SARS. I expect we'll have more and more cases cropping up in the UK, probably sporadic, but an outbreak isn't out of the question.

Hopefully it will burn itself out due to the quite understandably paranoid infection control procedures being put in place in HK and
'The Spanish flu just after the first world war and SARS have about the same mortality 4-5% but SARS is much less infectious. It's said to be because of droplet size. The cough with flu produces lots of tiny droplets of infected material, SARS tends to have bigger clumps which don't float about so much and drop onto surfaces like furniture and door handles. This is why you have to be with someone for some time eg smiley - doctor or smiley - nurse and why it got into a hotel in Hong Kong but stayed in a corridor and one lift. This suggests that handwashing is as important as masks but of course masks prevent you passing it on'.
'Yeah. Just great. And good ol' Canada is now on the list of places to avoid due to Toronto's SARS cases. We just finished inoculating the smiley - ponys for West Nile. I suppose soon there'll be decontamination booths at US/Canada border crossings and international airports...

*sigh* Time to open another keg'..smiley - ale
'Just remember, from what I read somewhere (can't remember where), the mortality from SARS is around the same as flu, but SARS isn't anywhere as contagious. No-one has cared to mention in the news reports, that of the 'worrying' cases (ie, those resulting in death in the supposedly healthy and young), that there is always a possibility of subclinical, undiagnosed underlaying conditions that the infection was able to take advantage of, and hence cause death. They seem to have been making such a big deal about SARS from the start; even when cases and mortalities were low, I wonder why they did this, and now, there is a certain cause for the 'worry' factor, because of the cover up of infection rates'.smiley - erm

Further information

Questions and Answers

SARS: The Unknown Threat

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Latest news

The UK Government has warned against travelling to Beijing. The World Health Organisation has warned against visiting Hong Kong, Beijing and Toronto as the number of cases there spiral. BBC

Archangel Galaxy Babe

with help from:


01.05.03 Front Page

Back Issue Page

1Close contact means having cared for, having lived with, or having had direct contact with respiratory secretions and body fluids of a person with SARS.2The hospital where I work3Not linked because his current name tag does awful things to the margin on the page!

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