Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS)
SARS is a life-threatening respiratory illness caused by the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus or SARS-CoV. It originated in China in November 2002 and spread to more than 2 dozen countries including the Philippines; no cases of the disease have been reported since 2004.
Last Updated: February 23, 2024

It is caused by the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus or SARS-CoV. The virus spreads through droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes; the virus may also be transmitted by touching surfaces or objects contaminated with the infectious droplets and then touching the mouth, nose, or eyes.

Initially, people with the virus experience flu-like symptoms like fever and chills, headache, an overall feeling of discomfort, and body aches; a dry cough may follow 2-7 days after the onset of symptoms. Some individuals may also experience difficulty breathing, chest pain, and diarrhea (often later in the course of illness). In more severe cases, the virus can target a person’s lungs, which can then lead to a decrease in oxygen levels in the blood. Around 10-20 percent of these individuals eventually require intensive hospital care.

There is currently no specific cure for SARS. Instead, management of SARS patients largely involves supportive care; however, there is not much scientific evidence showing that these interventions are effective. These supportive treatments include: • using a ventilator to deliver oxygen to assist with breathing • antibiotics to treat bacteria that cause pneumonia • antiviral medicines • high doses of steroids to reduce swelling in the lungs

To reduce the risk of catching the virus, it is best to: • Avoid traveling to areas where there’s an uncontrolled SARS outbreak • Avoid prolonged direct contact with individuals who have the virus, at least until 10 days after they no longer have symptoms It is also important to follow proper personal hygiene measures to help prevent the spread of the virus: • wash hands thoroughly using soap and water • cover both mouth and nose when sneezing or coughing • avoid sharing food, drink, and utensils • regularly clean surfaces with a disinfectant
Last Updated: February 23, 2024