Last Updated on Sep 26, 2014

What are The Cause of SARS?

SARS is caused by a coronavirus called SARS-associated coronavirus (SARS-CoV).

SARS is caused by a coronavirus called SARS-associated coronavirus (SARS-CoV) that was first identified in Asia in February 2003. It is believed that the 2003 global epidemic started when the virus spread from small mammals to humans in China.

Coronaviruses are a group of viruses that cause enteric or respiratory tract infections in a variety of animals, including humans, livestock and pets. They have a halo or crown-like (corona) appearance when viewed under a microscope. They are considered as ‘Jewels in the Cold Monarchy’ and are responsible for 10-30% of common colds. 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.

The virus is present in the respiratory secretions of infected persons.

The main way that SARS seems to spread is by ‘close person-to-person contact’. In the context of SARS, close contact means having cared for or lived with someone with SARS, or having direct contact with respiratory secretions or body fluids of a patient with SARS.

Droplet spread can happen when droplets from the cough or sneeze of an infected person are propelled through the air and deposited on the mucous membranes of the mouth, nose, or eyes of persons who are nearby. The 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). 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.

The SARS virus may live on hands, tissues and other surfaces for up to 6 hours in the droplets and up to 3 hours once the droplets have dried. It has been shown to live for up to 4 days in infected stools. The virus is capable of living for months or years below freezing temperature.

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