Student presentation on




Life History

Severe Acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) is a respiratory illness that had recently been reported in Asia, North America, and Europe. SARS was first reported is Asia in February of 2003, over the next few months it spread to more than a dozen countries. By late July 2003, no new cases were being reported and the global outbreak was declared over by the World Health Organization. During this time period 8,098 people worldwide became infected with SARS and out of these 774 died. In the United States a total of 192 SARS cases had been reported, including 159 suspect and 33 probable cases. Of the probable only 8 had laboratory evidence of SARS-CoV infection. Luckily, no SARS relate deaths occurred in the US.

Microbial Characteristics
SARS belongs to a family of viruses called the coronaviruses. These viruses are recognized by their halo or crown like appearance when viewed under a microscope. The difference between SARS and other Caronaviruses deals with with their protein makeup. In early April of 2003 researchers from the Michael Smith Genome Science Centre in Vancouver, Canada become the first team to complete the DNA sequencing of the deadly virus. Unlike HIV/AIDS that took 3 years to complete the team managed to accomplish this in 8 days. From the sequence scientists were able to determine that virus probably began its life in an animal then mutated before picking up the power to infect people.


SARS appears to spread by close person-to-person contact. It is thought that transmission is most readily occurred through respiratory droplets. These can be produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. These droplets are propelled through the air and are deposited on the mucous membranes of the mouth, nose, or eyes of a person that is nearby. It is also possible that the virus can spread when a person touches a surface or object contaminated with infectious droplets and then touches their mouth, nose, or eyes. Furthermore, it is possible that SARS-CoV might be airborne spread or by other methods that are not yet known.


Once infected the typical incubation period for SARS is 2-7 days, however, in some cases it may be as long as 10 days. The illness usually begins with a fever. Sometimes chills accompany the fever and other symptoms including headache, general feeling of discomfort, and body aches. Some people also develop mild respiratory symptoms at the outset. After the incubation period of 2 to 7 days SARS patients may develop a dry nonproductive cough that might be accompanied by or progresses to the point where insufficient oxygen is getting to the blood. The CDC says that SARS cannot be ruled out until 22 days after an infection. This is the amount of time it can take for the body to produce antibodies against the coronavirus. However, at this time we still do not have a full understanding of the natural course of the illness.


As of now the CDC recommends that SARS patients receive the same treatment that would be used for any patient with serious community-acquired typical pneumonia. Therapy has included antivirals such as oseltamivir or ribavirin. Steroids also have been given orally or intravenously to patients in combination with ribavirin and other antimicrobials. However, the efficacy of these regimens remains unknown.

In the spring of 2003, the University of Connecticut had it’s own scare with the SARS virus. A student at the University had flown to Germany in March on an airplane with a doctor from Singapore who had been diagnosed with SARS. The student then began to develop a fever, but continued to attend classes at the university. This made Health officials go crazy over the idea of a potential outbreak. Classmates and Professors were notified and examined for the symptoms. Luckily, nobody developed a SARS-like illness and the blood test of the potentially infected student came back negative.