Diseases Home > What to Expect With SARS and the Disease's History
SARS is a potentially life-threatening infection, with an average death rate of 11 percent for the most severely affected areas. SARS is also associated with a number of serious complications, such as pneumonia. However, one third of people infected with the SARS virus have only mild symptoms.
Doctors can seldom predict why one person will develop serious symptoms and another will not. However, they do know that certain factors increase a person's chance of developing serious symptoms. People at risk for more serious SARS symptoms include:
- People over the age of 65
- People with other medical problems.
(Click SARS Prognosis for more information.)
SARS was first reported in Asia in February 2003, after first appearing in southern China in November 2002. Over the next few months, SARS spread to more than two dozen countries in North America, South America, Europe, and Asia before the SARS global outbreak of 2003 was contained.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), a total of 8,098 people worldwide became sick with SARS during the 2003 outbreak. Of these, 774 died. Of the 774 deaths attributed to SARS, more than 50 percent occurred in people 65 years of age or older. Susceptibility decreased significantly with age, with children the least likely to acquire the disease.
In the United States, only eight people had laboratory evidence of a SARS virus infection, with no deaths. All of these people had traveled to other parts of the world with SARS. SARS did not spread more widely in the community in the United States.
The prompt recognition that SARS is caused by a new type of coronavirus is a tribute to the dedication of and collaboration by the world's medical researchers and public health experts. Much more research is needed, however, to develop ways to identify, treat, and prevent this deadly illness.