Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) Symptoms

  • Symptoms

    The first symptoms of SARS illness usually occur 2 to 7 days after exposure to the virus. The illness often begins with a temperature of 100.4ºF [38ºC] or higher. The temperature often increases and may be accompanied by chills. Later, a dry cough may develop Table 01.

    Other early symptoms may include headache, body aches, and malaise (feeling generally unwell). A dry cough and mild difficulty breathing may occur soon after. Some SARS patients have also reported dizziness and diarrhea Table 01.

    SARS patients may develop symptoms serious enough to require hospitalization. About 4% to 6% of SARS patients have died.

    SARS can progress into serious respiratory illness. Ten percent to 20% of SARS patients develop respiratory failure severe enough to require a machine to help them breathe (ventilator). SARS pneumonia has been fatal in about 4% to 6% of cases. Death may result from respiratory failure caused by damage to the air sacs (alveoli) of the lungs.

    Table 1.  Possible Symptoms of SARS

    Common early symptoms Temperature of 100.4?F [38?C] or higher
    Body aches
    Malaise (feeling generally unwell)
    Symptoms that may appear after the first day or two of the illness Dry cough
    Mild shortness of breath
    Less common symptoms that may occur Nausea and vomiting
    Productive (mucus-producing) cough
    Sore throat
    Runny nose
  • Risk Factors

    You are at risk of contracting SARS if you have had direct close contact with an infected person. An example of this is living in the same house as a person infected with SARS.

    “Close contact” includes having lived with or provided care for a SARS patient, or coming in direct contact with the respiratory secretions or body fluids of a SARS patient.

    Your risk of contracting SARS is increased if you have recently traveled to an area that is experiencing a public outbreak of the illness. Having close contact with someone who has traveled to these outbreak areas also increases your risk of SARS virus exposure.

    The CDC has warnings on their website ( with current locations of SARS outbreak areas. Check the CDC website for the most up-to-date information about travel warnings and areas to avoid.

    Closely monitor your health for 10 days following travel to a SARS-affected area. A clinician should evaluate any onset of fever, cough, or difficulty breathing that occurs within 2 weeks of your last exposure to a SARS-affected region.

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