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Definition of «Severe acute respiratory syndrome»

Severe acute respiratory syndrome: A severe form of pneumonia. Abbreviated SARS. A term applied to outbreaks of a mysterious illness in Asia beginning February 1, 2003.

The clinical criteria for the diagnosis of SARS are:

  • One or more signs or symptoms of respiratory illness including cough, shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, hypoxia, or radiographic (X-ray) findings of pneumonia or acute respiratory distress syndrome AND
  • Fever(>38° C [100.4° F]) AND
  • One or more of the following:
    • Close contact within 10 days of onset of symptoms with a person under investigation or suspected of having SARS
    • Travel within 10 days of onset of symptoms to an area with documented transmission of SARS.

The National Center for Infectious Diseases posted the following Travelers' Health Warning, that read (in part):

As of March 12, 2003, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has received reports of outbreaks of a severe form of pneumonia in Hong Kong SAR, Vietnam, and Guangdong, a province in southern China.

In Vietnam, a man became ill after traveling from Shanghai, China, and Hong Kong SAR to Hanoi, where he was hospitalized for a severe, acute respiratory syndrome. Approximately 20 hospital staff became ill with similar symptoms, which included initial influenza-like illness with rapid onset of high fever, followed by muscle aches, headache, and sore throat. Some cases progressed to bilateral pneumonia; a subset of the pneumonia patients developed acute respiratory distress requiring mechanical ventilation. Some patients are now recovering, while others remain critically ill.

WHO (the World Health Organization) recommends the use of isolation and barrier nursing techniques with patients who have atypical pneumonia and any possible links to the outbreaks, and that suspect cases be reported to national health authorities. As an added measure, CDC recommends respiratory precautions with use of a personal respirator during any close contact with cases and suspect cases.

The cause of this form of SARS is still unknown. The disease is clearly highly contagious under certain situations, as in hospitals, and it can clearly be deadly.

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