Coronavirus Disease 2019: Facts sheet to stay safe from the outbreak   Learn More

Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) Coronavirus - SARS-CoV

Saima Andrabi   by Saima Andrabi, MS, Clinical Biochemistry    Last updated on March 13, 2020,

What is SARS Coronavirus (SARS-CoV)?

SARS or severe acute respiratory syndrome is a rapidly spreading and potentially fatal viral disease that appeared first time in Southern China (2002) and then spread to more than 24 countries. In March 2003, SARS was recognized as a global threat by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). SARS- Associated Coronavirus commonly known as SARS-CoV infects both humans and animals.

How SARs-CoV Spreads?

SARS-CoV is an airborne virus and spreads among people in the same way as cold and flu. SARS can spread from an infected person to a healthy person via small droplets of saliva that are released by an infected person while coughing or sneezing. The virus can also spread via a physical contact with an infected person.

Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) Pandemic

SARS first originated in China in 2002 and then spread quickly to other Asian countries. It was believed that mutation of a viral strain of the coronavirus (usually found in small mammals) spread it to humans. The SARS pandemic was then controlled in July 2003. During the SARS pandemic, a policy was made that the people who were suspected of having the condition should be completely isolated from rest of the population and also the passengers who had travelled from the disease affected countries should be screened if they show the symptoms. The SARS pandemic affected almost 8,098 people and resulted in almost 774 deaths.

In the year 2004, another SARS outbreak was reported in China and it was caused due to direct contact with the SARS virus sample in a medical laboratory rather than being caused due to animal to human or human to human transmission.

What are the Symptoms of SARS Coronavirus (SARS-CoV)?

An infection caused by the SARS-Coronavirus usually resembles the common flu and the symptoms generally appear within 2 to 7 days post-infection. Some of the common symptoms associated with the SARS infection are:

  • High fever
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Appetite loss
  • Muscle pain
  • Chills
  • Diarrhea
  • Headache
  • Dry cough
  • Difficulty in breathing
  • Severe hypoxemia (lack of oxygen in the blood) which can be even fatal

Is There Any Treatment for SARS-CoV?

 Currently, there is no treatment for the SARS, however, the research is ongoing to find an effective vaccine against this deadly virus. Supportive treatment can be helpful to some extent and may include:

  • Using antiviral medications
  • Using steroids for reducing the lung inflammation
  • Using ventilators for providing oxygen to patients with severe hypoxemia
  • Using antibiotics for preventing the pneumonia infections which may be caused by this viral infection

Preventive Measures Against SARS-CoV

There is no treatment for SARS-CoV, but we can prevent the infection from spreading to others by following the below mentioned preventive measures:

  • Avoid travelling to the virus affected areas of the world
  • Clean your hands regularly with soap or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer
  • Avoid sharing food, utensils, and drink with others
  • Cover your mouth while coughing and sneezing
  • Clean your houses and workplaces by using disinfectants
  • Using gloves, face masks, and goggles while dealing with an infected person


Frequently Asked Questions

Close contact means if you have been in direct contact with a person infected with SARS or having high chances that you had direct contact with the respiratory droplets or other body fluids of the infected person.

The time between the exposure to the infection and the appearance of symptoms is called the incubation period. If you have been exposed to the SARS-CoV, you will start developing the symptoms within 2 to 7 days because the incubation period of SARS-CoV is 2 to 7 days while as in some cases it is 14 days.

A person with SARS is infectious to others until it has the symptom of the disease such as fever, cough, breathlessness, etc. It has been suggested that the patients are most contagious until the second week of illness. CDC recommends that an infected person should avoid interacting with people for at least 10 days till the symptoms are gone.

The only way to protect yourself from a SARS-CoV outbreak is to follow the precautionary measures:

  • Keep your hands clean
  • Avoid touching your eyes, mouth, and nose
  • Encourage people to use face masks while they sneeze our cough

Yes, many laboratory tests are available for detecting the SARS-CoV infection. These include:

  • RT-PCR (reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction) for detecting the virus in blood, stool, nasal secretions, etc
  • Serological tests for detecting the antibodies against SARS
  • Viral culture for detecting the SARS-CoV