Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) is caused by a type of coronavirus, known as SARS-CoV, which can cause mild to moderate upper respiratory illness. It is a respiratory illness that first infected people in parts of Asia, North America, and Europe in late 2002 and early 2003. It infected 8,096 and killed 774 people. Experts believe SARS may have first developed in animals because the virus has been found in civets-a catlike wild animal that is eaten as a delicacy in China-and other animals.
How is SARS spread?
SARS is spread mainly through contact with infected saliva or droplets from coughing. In general, you need to have close contact to become infected. Close contact includes living with or caring for a person who has SARS or breathing in air that an infected person exhaled. But under some conditions, SARS has spread within an apartment building and to health care workers. Outbreaks of SARS do not appear to be seasonal.
An infection may develop after:
- Sharing food or drink with an infected person.
- Hugging or kissing a person who has SARS.
- Close contact with an infected person.
- Getting the tiny droplets on your hands by touching contaminated surfaces or objects and then touching your eyes, nose, or mouth.
It is possible SARS can be transmitted in other ways, such as by touching objects that are contaminated with feces from an infected person. This could happen if people do not wash their hands after using the bathroom.
The disease does not appear to spread from a mother to her baby at birth.