SARS is caused by a coronavirus, one of a group of viruses that are responsible for about one third of all cases of the common cold. The variety that causes SARS had not been previously identified, and may have been transmitted to humans from a civet species in whose blood the virus is also found. Civets are considered a delicacy in SE China, where the disease originated. Infection with SARS mainly occurs when a person in close contact with someone who has the disease is exposed to exhaled droplets. The spread of the disease has been controlled by isolating infected patients and quarantining those exposed to them.
The disease apparently first occurred in Nov., 2002, in Foshan, Guangdong prov., China, but provincial authorities withheld information about it, and when it spread to Beijing local authorities there acted similarly. In Feb., 2003, the World Health Organization first noted reports of cases of atypical pneumonia from China, but Chinese officials did not begin cooperating fully with international experts until April. SARS subsequently spread to some 30 countries on five continents, and affected the economies of China, Hong Kong, and Toronto, where cases were the highest; Taiwan and Singapore were also hard hit. The rapid international spread of the 2002-3 outbreak was facilitated by air travel and the lack of prompt, early information about SARS from Chinese officials.
See study by T. Abraham (2004).
Highly contagious respiratory illness characterized by a persistent fever, headache, and bodily discomfort, followed by a dry cough that may progress to great difficulty in breathing. SARS appeared in November 2002 in Guangdong province, China, and was brought to Hong Kong in February 2003. As it spread from there to other countries of East Asia and the world, health authorities instituted an unprecedented series of control measures, including quarantines and prohibitions on travel, and in June 2003 the global outbreak was declared to be contained. By that time more than 8,000 cases had been reported, and some 800 people had died. SARS is believed to be caused by a mutant coronavirus, a type usually associated with pneumonia and the common cold. A specific vaccine has not been developed. Treatment is usually restricted to easing the patient's symptoms—providing mechanical ventilation if necessary—until the illness has run its course.
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