SARS was first seen in 2002 in China which presented with infection of almost 8000 people and it spread to most of the world within few months. It eventually led to death of almost 1000 people in 40 countries. However, no more cases of SARS have been reported in the world since 2004.
SARS is a disease of the respiratory tract. It is viral in origin. It is caused by a corona virus. It is a zoonosis that is spread from animals to humans initially.SARS is a unique example of the acute infection threats in the speeded and interconnected world in such as short span of time.
Spread of the virus:
As most of the respiratory infection causing micro- organisms, SARS spreads through droplets which are released in air when a person infected with SARS virus sneezes or coughs or talks.
It can also spread through fomites that is contaminated objects such as handkerchiefs and doorknobs, elevator buttons and telephone receivers.
In order to identify any future outbreaks, it is necessary to know how the disease presents itself. It mostly presents in a flu like condition with following symptoms:
- Body ache
- Easy fatigability
- Fever above 38 degrees Celsius.
- Muscle pain
- Cold and cough
- Sore throat
- Difficulty in breathing
- Pneumonia either viral or superimposed bacterial
As the name suggests the disease is severe, acute (presents with severe symptoms in a short time span), respiratory complaints, and as a set of complaints are seen together, a syndrome. Hence it is named as Severe acute respiratory syndrome.
the fever is the primary criteria of the diagnosis. All the patients of SARS present with a minimum 100-degree Fahrenheit fever.
- Chest X ray:
A positive chest x ray for atypical pneumonia or respiratory distress syndrome.
- Virus detection tests:
Serological tests such as ELISA, immunofluorescence, Polymerase chain reaction are used to detect the viral load in the blood of the patient.
The treatment modalities tried are as follows:
- Anti pyretics: medicines to decrease the body temperature are used to reduce the fever in SARS patients.
- Anti- biotics: anti- bacterial drugs have a limited value as SARS is a viral disease. But they are useful in superimposed bacterial infections.
- Isolation: isolation of the affected individuals in negative pressure rooms is recommended.
Many of the patients who survived the SARS outbreak in China have shown following problems afterwards,
- Pulmonary fibrosis
- Osteoporosis (thinning of the bones)
- Femoral necrosis (destruction of the head of the thigh bone)
Till now, the researchers are unsuccessful in preparing an effective vaccine against SARS virus. For future reference, following are the precautions that should be taken in health professionals or care takers of the infected individuals to avoid infection.
- Washing hands
- Wearing a surgical mask
- Wearing disposable gloves
- Disinfect the surfaces
- Avoid direct contact with body fluids
- Washing the personal items of SARS infected persons in hot soapy water.
However, according to WHO, the precise SARS virus is believed to be gone or contained in 2003.