Purpose of review
Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) is an infectious disease first recognized in November 2002 in Guangdong Province, China. It spread to many countries all over the world during February to June 2003, with 8098 cases reported. Twenty-one percent of the affected people were health care workers. Because SARS is a new emerging disease, this review describes the current understanding about the etiology, clinical pictures, laboratory and radiological findings of SARS.
Severe acute respiratory syndrome-associated coronavirus (SARS-CoV) was quickly found to be the etiological agent of SARS in April 2003. The transmission of SARS-CoV between human beings is mainly due to close contact. Using barrier precautions, the transmission of SARS-CoV can be prevented. The most common clinical presentations of patients with SARS include fever, cough, and dyspnea. The common laboratory findings include lymphopenia, thrombocytopenia, elevated serum alanine and aspartate aminotransferase, lactate dehydrogenase, creatine phosphokinase, and C-reactive protein. The most common radiological finding is pneumonic lesion(s) in the chest radiogram. Many patients experience exacerbation of clinical symptoms in the second week of disease course and some may progress to respiratory failure and need mechanical ventilatory support. The overall case fatality rate is 9.6%. The current method of treatment of SARS is still controversial.
SARS is an infectious disease with high contagiousness and a high mortality rate. Early case identification and infection control are two important factors to limit its spread.