Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS)
Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) came to the world’s attention in early 2003. The first cases of SARS were reported in Asia, but the illness soon spread to countries in North America, Europe, and South America. SARS had an impact on health care, travel, and worldwide business. The outbreak of SARS was contained in 2003, but scientists continue to study the outbreak of the illness and to investigate SARS-associated coronavirus, the virus that causes SARS. They are also investigating other infectious agents that may also have caused some cases of SARS in 2003.
The World Health Organization (WHO) reported over 8,000 people suffered from SARS during the 2003 outbreak of the disease. Less than 10% of those patients died. Eight people in the U.S. were positively tested for SARS, and all of those people had recently traveled to other countries where the SARS virus was known to occur.
Transfer and Symptoms
SARS is a viral respiratory illness, and it is most likely transmitted by infected people to others by droplets that spread when they cough or sneeze. People may pick up the virus if they touch an object that has infected droplets on it and then touch their mouths, noses, or eyes. Scientists are studying the virus to learn if it spreads in other ways that aren’t yet known. While close contact with an infected person allows the virus to be spread by having contact with droplets from coughs and sneezes, SARS is not transferred simply by walking by or sitting across a room from a person who has the virus.
People having a high fever, usually above 100.4°F, chills, headache, and body aches may be experiencing symptoms of SARS. While this can be quite similar to having influenza, SARS patients also develop a dry cough that can lead to hypoxia, which is a condition where the oxygen levels in a person’s blood become dangerously low. Many SARS patients develop pneumonia.
How to Prevent SARS
Just like with colds and flu, the best way to prevent transferring the SARS virus is to frequently wash your hands. People who may have been exposed to SARS and are having symptoms such as fever, coughing, and sneezing should not travel. If ill people did not travel, SARS could be restricted to small areas and not pose a threat to large groups of people around the world.
What the Future Holds
Immunologists are scientists who study the immune system and how the body acquires immunity to disease. A group of immunologists studying the SARS virus at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine are reporting that an experimental vaccine they are developing has shown positive initial signs of eliciting a strong immune response when tested on rhesus macaque monkeys. The university’s initial study of the experimental vaccine showed that the monkeys’ immunity to SARS started about two weeks after their first injection and increased after a booster shot 28 days later. The virus will be tested next on ferrets, a species that seems to be more susceptible to SARS than rhesus macaques. The vaccine could be tested on humans within two years.
Visit http://www.stemnet.nf.ca/CITE/maps.htm to view maps of each continent. Gather data about confirmed SARS cases using newspapers and Web-based information sources. Create a color-coding scheme and use each continent’s map to track confirmed SARS cases. Write a summary of your findings which includes the possible connections between countries reporting SARS cases.