SARS, or severe acute respiratory syndrome, comes from a coronavirus. Symptoms center around the respiratory system can lead to severe breathing problems if the patient goes without treatment. Here are ten facts about SARS:

  1. The first widespread case occurred in late 2002 in the Guangdong Province of the Republic of China. The delayed health response led to a global spread of the disease on par with the Ebola epidemic of 2014. The final statistic from WHO showed over 8,000 reported illnesses and more than 700 deaths.
  2. The disease was hard to diagnose due to its irregularity and similarity to pneumonia. Until 2000, cases of SARS were considered rare. Therefore, medical treatment of the virus was scarce, especially in developing countries where the spread happened fastest.
  3. Of the 194 countries that are the Member States of WHO, only 64 of them have efficient alert and response plans for unusual and rare disease outbreaks.
  4. The disease might have originated in animals. A report from the WHO Regional Office for the Western Pacific Region showed that “the palm civet in southern China may have played a crucial role in this respect and that the close relationship between animals and humans seems to have been a likely precondition for the virus to jump the species barrier.” A solution to preventing the initial infection of humans with SARS is to halt unhygienic veterinary and animal husbandry practices that are common in these areas.
  5. In Singapore, 76% of infections occurred in a healthcare facility. Additionally, SARS infected 42 percent of those were health care workers; 49 nurses, 13 physicians and 22 other specialists. Among the healthcare workers, there were no cases among laboratory workers or pathologists.
  6. The source of the Taiwanese outbreak was a 42-year-old laundry worker in a hospital who continued to work despite showing symptoms of SARS. It took 6 days for professionals to diagnose SARS.
  7. The epidemic in Taiwan was mainly due to the health care system’s poorly-executed response.
  8. In October 2012, the National Select Agent Registry added the SARS-associated CoV to its repertoire. The Registry handles the regulation and possession of bacteria, viruses and toxins that pose a potential threat to the public. The addition of the virus to this list ensures maintenance of a national database as well as inspections of objects that may possess, use or transfer SARS-CoV.
  9. SARS is no longer a large-scale threat, due to the global response and the willingness of countries to share their medical information with other countries to quickly control and eradicate the virus.
  10. Future outbreaks are still possible since the virus lives in wild bats and civets. Fortunately, since the end of the epidemics in 2004, there have been no reports of human cases.

SARS is no longer an imminent health concern, but reflecting on this outbreak can help prevent the spread of another viral outbreak like this. Training medical facilities in how to handle highly infectious diseases like SARS and open communication between health professionals around the globe is key to preventing the spread of such diseases.

Taylor Elgarten

Photo: Google