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What is severe acute respiratory syndrome?

Severe acute respiratory syndrome is an infectious respiratory disease. Commonly referred to as SARS, the infection is caused by a virus and easily spread from person to person.

The SARS virus was first identified in 2003, when an outbreak in China led to an epidemic of the disease, which caused more than 800 infections and 34 deaths.


  • Chills and shaking
  • Cough
  • Diarrhea
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Dizziness
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Muscle aches
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Runny nose
  • Sore throat


SARS is caused by a virus that is similar to the common cold. When a patient with SARS coughs or sneezes, the infected droplets spray into the air. You can catch the virus by breathing in or touching the particles.

The SARS virus may live on hands, tissues and other surfaces for up to six hours. The virus has also been found in fecal remains for up to four days.