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The Risks Of SARS - Now Contained

Many of us will remember the SARS scare that happened in early 2000, prompting an international concerted effort to contain the deadly virus. SARS stands for sever acute respiratory syndrome, and it is caused by the SARS coronavirus. The proliferation of SARS was near pandemic which caused panic across all nations—peaking in 2003 with more than 8,000 cases around the world and an alarming fatality rate of 10.9%. Because of the ease of international travel, SARS spread from its origin Hong Kong to around 37 other countries including the United States within a matter of just weeks.
Today, there is no known case of SARS anymore and it is considered fully contained. However, this doesn’t mean that the virus is fully eradicated—it is believed that it may still be present in natural hosts such as animals and can return to the human population when rightly triggered.

Symptoms of SARS include a fever that reaches higher than 38 degrees Celsius, dry cough and a shortness of breath. It also displays other flu-like symptoms such as chills, muscle aches and even diarrhea. In the beginning, there was a mad scramble because there was no test available to determine if symptoms were being caused by SARS. There were also many cases where a patient died because it was thought that the case was only a simple bout with flu, only to have them seriously and quickly deteriorate without proper medical care. But now, there are tests available to conclusively determine if a case is SARS.

SARS is believed to be spread by human to human contact, as the virus can be airborne. This can be passed on if a person talks, coughs or sneezes, and another person is exposed. It is also believed that SARS virus can be transmitted through objects such as doorknobs, telephones etc. This is why a lot of advisories around the time emphasized the wearing of masks, frequent washing of hands and disinfecting commonly used objects.

Most people who are exposed to SARS develop pneumonia, leading to such severe breathing problems that in many cases, patients would have to be assisted in breathing by machines. There are different mortality rates in differing age groups, with 1% death rate affecting those 24 years old and below, 6% death rate affecting those 25-44, 15% for those 45-64, while the highest is at 50% for those 65 and above. People who have conditions such as diabetes are especially at risk.

Around the world, China suffered the most number of SARS cases and deaths, at over 5,300 cases and over 340 deaths. Next in the list is Hong Kong, followed by Canada, Taiwan and Singapore. The United States had 27 recorded SARS cases, but no fatalities.