A very contagious disease, severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) first appeared in southern China in November 2002. The virus that causes this respiratory illness is spread through close contact with an infected person, usually through the air or by touching a contaminated surface. Symptoms usually begin with a high fever, body aches, and headaches. As the disease progresses, some people may also develop respiratory symptoms, and most people eventually develop pneumonia.
In most cases, a person with SARS will require hospitalization for intensive supportive care, as no medications are effective for this illness. Treatment goals are focused on providing relief of symptoms and complications as the body fights the virus.
(Click SARS to read the full-length article that discusses how a diagnosis is made, other symptoms of the disease, the incubation period, and more.)