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Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) continues to be reported primarily among people who have travelled to affected areas. A small number of other people have become infected after being in close contact with or having cared for or lived with a SARS patient. 
Surgical face masks for protection against SARS.

SARS

(SARS) Severe acute respiratory syndrome.

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SARS GUIDANCE

October 2004
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General Information

PREVENTION AND CONTROL RECOMMENDATIONS

The Illness

What is SARS?

Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) is a respiratory illness that has recently been reported in Asia, North America, and Europe.

What are the symptoms and signs of SARS?
The illness usually begins with a fever (measured temperature greater than 100.4F [>38.0C]). The fever is sometimes associated with chills or other symptoms, including headache, general feeling of discomfort and body aches. Some people also experience mild respiratory symptoms at the outset.

After 2 to 7 days, SARS patients may develop a dry, non-productive cough that might be accompanied by or progress to the point where insufficient oxygen is getting to the blood. In 10 percent to 20 percent of cases, patients will require mechanical ventilation.

If I were exposed to SARS, how long would it take for me to become sick?
The incubation period for SARS is typically 2 to 7 days; however, isolated reports have suggested an incubation period as long as 10 days.


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Spread of SARS

How is SARS spread?
The primary way that SARS appears to spread is by close person-to-person contact. Potential ways in which SARS can be spread include touching the skin of other people or objects that are contaminated with infectious droplets and then touching your eye(s), nose, or mouth. This can happen when someone who is sick with SARS coughs or sneezes droplets onto 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 not known.

How long is a person with SARS infectious to others?
Information to date suggests that people are most likely to be infectious when they have symptoms, such as fever or cough. However, it is not known how long before or after their symptoms begin that patients with SARS might be able to transmit the disease to others.

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Cause of SARS

What is the cause of SARS?
Scientists at CDC and other laboratories have detected a previously unrecognized coronavirus in patients with SARS. This new coronavirus is the leading hypothesis for the cause of SARS, however, other viruses are still under investigation as potential causes.

What are coronaviruses?
Coronaviruses are a group of viruses that have a halo or crown-like (corona) appearance when viewed under a microscope. These viruses are a common cause of mild to moderate upper-respiratory illness in humans and are associated with respiratory, gastrointestinal, liver and neurologic disease in animals.

 

The Outbreak

Most cases of SARS have been reported from China. In addition, SARS cases have been reported from more than 20 other countries. Measures to control the spread of SARS continue to be used in countries worldwide so that the outbreak can be contained. Visit WHO's SARS page for daily updates.

 

Travel and Quarantine
WHO has
recommended procedures for pre-departure screening of airline passengers from some countries for respiratory illnesses or other symptoms of SARS.

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RECOMMENDATIONS

Personal and Household

What should I do if I think I have SARS?
If you are ill with a fever greater than 100.4F (>38.0C) that is accompanied by a cough or difficulty breathing or that progresses to a cough and/or difficulty breathing, you should consult a health-care provider. To help your health-care provider make a diagnosis, tell him or her about any recent travel to regions where cases of SARS have been reported and whether you were in contact with someone who had these symptoms.

 

Travel and Quarantine

Are there any travel restrictions related to SARS?
At this time there are no travel restrictions in place that are directly related to SARS. However,  individuals who are planning nonessential or elective travel to the People's Republic of China (i.e., mainland China and Hong Kong); Hanoi, Vietnam; or Singapore may wish to postpone their trip until further notice. For additional information for travellers from the USA about travel advisories, check
CDC's Travellers' Health site, which will be updated as necessary.

 

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