Diseases Home > How Is SARS Spread?

The SARS virus is spread through close contact with an infected individual. It can be passed either through the air or by touching a contaminated surface. SARS transmission is thought to occur most often via respiratory droplets that are produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes.

The Primary Ways in Which SARS Is Spread

Close contact with an infected person is the main way in which the SARS virus is spread. It can be passed either through the air or by touching a contaminated surface.
 
Through the Air
SARS transmission is thought to occur most often by respiratory droplets (droplet spread), produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. Droplet spread can happen when droplets from the cough or sneeze of an infected person are propelled a short distance (generally up to three feet) through the air and deposited on the mucous membranes of the mouth, nose, or eyes of people who are nearby.
 
Contaminated Surfaces
The SARS virus also can spread when a person touches a surface or object contaminated with infectious droplets and then touches his or her mouth, nose, or eye(s).
 

Other Possibilities for Spreading SARS

In addition, it is possible that the SARS virus might spread more broadly through the air (airborne spread) or by other ways that are not yet known.
 

What Is Close Contact?

Close contact is defined as having cared for or lived with a person known to have SARS or having a high likelihood of direct contact with respiratory secretions and/or body fluids of a person known to have SARS. Some examples of close contact include:
 
  • Kissing or embracing
  • Sharing eating or drinking utensils
  • Close conversation (within three feet)
  • Physical examination and any other direct physical contact between people.
     
Close contact does not include activities such as walking by a person or briefly sitting across a waiting room or office.
 
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
Last updated/reviewed:
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