Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS)

SARS, or Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, is an infection of the respiratory system that was fatal in some cases.

According to a World Health Organisation report, there were 8,096 known infected cases and 774 deaths worldwide from SARS between November 2002 and July 2003. Death from SARS was primarily due to viral pneumonia.

SARS is an atypical form of pneumonia, an infection of the lungs. This viral infection and deadly disease caused a global outbreak in 2003 that spread rapidly and severely tested communicable disease control practices in many countries. In Singapore, there were 238 cases and 33 deaths from the SARS outbreak. Since 2004, there have been no cases of SARS reported anywhere in the world. 

SARS Virus Causes and Risk Factors

SARS is caused by the SARS coronavirus, which is believed to have mutated from a virus found in small mammals.

Coronaviruses are named after their crown-like (corona) appearance under a microscope. These viruses are commonly associated with upper respiratory illness in humans. Like any other atypical pneumonia, SARS is a serious infection that can lead to death in some cases.

The SARS virus spreads through close contact with someone who is infected with SARS via droplet transmission when coughing or sneezing. Transmission may also be possible through touching objects contaminated with the infected virus when one then touches their mouth, nose or eyes.

SARS Signs and Symptoms

The SARS virus may cause the following symptoms: 
High fever (more than 38 degrees Celsius) with chills
Body aches
Dry cough or cough and breathing difficulty 
Muscle pains
Sore throat
Tiredness or malaise
Breathing difficulty

The best way of managing SARS during the outbreak was to prevent its spread by practising good personal hygiene. The prevention tips will be familiar because they are similar to how other common viruses are prevented. 

Cover Your Nose/Mouth when Coughing or Sneezing 
o With a tissue or handkerchief when you cough or sneeze
o Wear a face mask when unwell and visiting your doctor

Wash Your Hands

o Before and after preparing food
o After going to the toilet
o Before and after eating
o After blowing your nose
o After using your hand when coughing or sneezing 
o Before touching your eyes, nose and mouth 

Build Up Your Immunity

o Quit smoking, which harms you and your family
o Eat lots of fruits and veggies for healthy nutrients that your body needs to defend itself
o Drink the equivalent of eight glasses of fluid daily
o Engage in 30 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity on five or more days a week
o Learn to relax and rest

Keep Your Environment Clean

o Do not throw leftover food on the floor or in the open
o Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces, such as toys and doorknobs
o Do not leave food in common areas for stray animals
o Do not spit on the floor and common areas
o Throw used masks, tissue or litter into rubbish bins

Contain the Spread of Viruses

o Use a serving spoon when sharing food from a common dish
o Do not share personal items such as toothbrushes and towels
o If you are unwell, see your doctor immediately
o Wear a mask if you feel unwell and stay home until recovered

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