Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) is a severe form of contagious viral pneumonia. It can cause severe respiratory problems which can be fatal. It is caused by a strain “coronavirus” which was identified in 2003. The coronavirus is the same family of viruses which causes the common cold.
The World Health Organization (WHO) considers it, a global health threat but no new cases of SARS are reported since 2004. The SARS viruses cause infection in both humans and animals. It is considered that the SARS virus might have crossed from animals to humans and has evolved from one or more animal viruses.
Symptoms of SARS
The symptoms of SARS resemble those of the flu which are the following:
- Fever (100.4°F)
- Shortness of breath
- Sore throat
- Dry cough
- Night Sweats
- Body aches
- loss of appetite
- State of confusion
Breathing issues develop within 2 to 10 days after a person’s exposure to the virus. SARS anywhere in the world since 2004.
SARS is a serious form of illness and can even lead to death. One must visit the doctor if he/she has developed the flu-like symptoms of a respiratory infection.
Transmission of SARS
SARS can transmit from one person to another in various ways. It can spread via the cough or sneeze of an infected person. The people caring for the patients of SARS should be careful. Direct contact with the bodily fluids of an infected person can cause SARS. Touching, kissing, hugging or utensils with an infected person can also spread disease.
A person can contract SARS by touching the surfaces contaminated with the respiratory droplets from an infected person. Infection can also occur if a person inhales respiratory droplets through the air, but researchers have not confirmed this yet.
The people having close contact with someone diagnosed with SARS and a history of travel to a country reported having SARS outbreaks are at high risk of infection.
Causes of SARS
SARS is caused by a member of the coronavirus family of viruses. It is the same viral family that causes the common cold. The first epidemic of SARS was caused by the spread of the virus from small mammals in China.
The infection of SARS spreads when the infected person sneezes or coughs. In this way, the droplets from the infected person spread into the air. A person can get the SARS virus if he/she breathe in the air having infected droplets or touches the surfaces contaminated with SARS virus. The SARS virus can survive on hands, tissue papers and on other surfaces for up to 6 hours.
In many cases, airborne transmission is observed. Live SARS viruses are also found in the stool of people infected with SARS. In stool, the SARS Virus has been shown to live for up to 4 days. The SARS virus can also survive for months or years in the temperature below freezing.
The Symptoms of SARS infection usually appear within 2 to 10 days after the first exposure with the virus. The time of appearance of symptoms can vary among individuals. The people having the active symptom of SARS infection are contagious and it is not unknown that for how long a person will remain contagious.
Various laboratory tests are available to detect the infection of SARS virus. During the first outbreak of SARS, no laboratory tests were available for the diagnosis of disease. Therefore, the diagnosis was primarily made through medical history and symptoms. In the present time, laboratory tests are available and can be performed on the throat and nasal swabs or blood samples. A chest X-ray or CT scan can also be performed which helps in the detection of pneumonia characteristic of SARS.
Complications associated with SARS
In some cases, SARS can be fatal. In the case of SARS, most of the fatalities result from respiratory failure. It can also cause other complication like liver and heart failure.
During SARS infection, breathing problems can become severe to such an extent that a mechanical respirator is required. The immunocompromised people are at high risk of infection. People older than the age of 60 are also at high risk of serious complications.
Treatment of SARS
No confirmed treatment is available for SARS which is effective for every individual. Generally, antiviral drugs and steroids are given to SARS patients to reduce swelling in the lungs but aren’t effective for everyone.
In case of severe respiratory infections, a ventilator or supplemental oxygen is also prescribed if necessary. In severe cases of infection, the blood plasma from someone who has already recovered from SARS is also used. However, not enough evidence are present to prove the efficacy of these treatments.
Prevention of SARS
No specific treatments are available for SARS infections. Therefore, prevention is better than cure. Some of the safety guidelines for SARS infection are the following:
- To prevent the disease, one must wash his/her hands frequently with soap and hot water. An alcohol-based hand rub containing 60 percent alcohol can also be used.
- If someone has contact with the body fluids or feces of SARS-infected person, then, he/she must wear disposable gloves. These gloves should be thrown away immediately after and hands should be washed thoroughly.
- SARS infection can spread via aerosols. Therefore, surgical masks must be used while working with the patients of one should cover the nose and mouth with the surgical mask. Wearing eyeglasses also provides protection against infection.
- A disinfectant should be used to clean the surfaces that may have been contaminated with saliva, mucus, sweat, vomit, stool or urine of the SARS patient. Wear disposable gloves while you clean and throw the gloves away when you’re done.
- The utensils, towels, bedding, and clothing of the SARS patient should be washed with soap and hot water.
These precautions should be taken at least 10 days after the person’s symptoms of the disease have disappeared. The immune-compromised people should be more careful in such conditions.
A severe acute respiratory syndrome is contagious viral pneumonia which spreads easily via aerosols or direct contact with the materials contaminated with SARS virus. The severe form of SARS can cause chronic respiratory problems which can lead to death. Therefore, the initial symptoms of the disease shouldn’t be ignored.