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Also known as severe acute respiratory syndrome, SARS is a viral respiratory illness that first appeared in southern China in November 2002. The virus that causes this illness is spread through close contact with an infected person, usually through the air or by touching a contaminated surface. The only proven cure for this condition is time, so treatment goals are focused on providing relief of symptoms and complications as the body fights the virus.

What Is SARS?

Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) is a new viral respiratory illness first identified in humans in early 2003, after first appearing in southern China in November 2002.

What Causes It?

SARS is caused by an infection with the SARS virus. The SARS virus is a previously unrecognized coronavirus called SARS-associated coronavirus (SARS-CoV).
(Click What Causes SARS? for more information.)

Transmission of SARS

The virus is spread through close contact with an infected person. It can be passed either through the air or by touching a contaminated surface.
(Click How Is SARS Spread? for more information.)

Incubation Period

The time between exposure to the virus and the onset of SARS symptoms is called the incubation period. The incubation period for SARS is typically two to seven days, although in some cases, it may be as long as 10 days. In a very small proportion of cases, incubation periods of up to 14 days have been reported.
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Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
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