Diseases Home > What Causes SARS?

Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) is caused by what's known as the SARS virus, a newly discovered type of coronavirus. Coronaviruses are a group of viruses that cause mild to moderate upper respiratory illnesses in humans and are associated with respiratory, gastrointestinal, liver, and neurologic disease in animals.

What Causes SARS?

SARS (severe acute resiratory syndrome) is caused by an infection with the SARS virus, a newly discovered coronavirus. It is possible that other infectious agents might have a role in some cases of SARS.
 

Understanding Coronaviruses

Coronaviruses are a group of viruses that have a halo or crown-like (corona) appearance when viewed under a microscope. These viruses are a common cause of mild to moderate upper respiratory illness in humans and are associated with respiratory, gastrointestinal, liver, and neurologic disease in animals.
 
Coronaviruses have occasionally been linked to pneumonia in humans, especially people with weakened immune systems. The viruses can also cause severe disease in animals, including cats, dogs, pigs, mice, and birds.
 
For some reason, the coronavirus that causes SARS can cause a potentially life-threatening disease in humans.
 

The SARS Virus

The SARS virus is a previously unrecognized coronavirus called SARS-associated coronavirus (SARS-CoV). The SARS virus is spread by close person-to-person contact, either through the air or by touching something that is contaminated with the SARS virus.
 
Preliminary SARS research studies suggest that the SARS virus may survive in the environment for several days. The length of time that the SARS virus survives likely depends on a number of factors. These factors could include the type of material or body fluid containing the virus and various environmental conditions such as temperature or humidity.
 
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
Last updated/reviewed:
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