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Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) is a highly contagious and possibly fatal disease that first showed up in China in 2003. CDC and WHO came up with guidelines to control the infection. SARS has been described as an ‘atypical pneumonia of unknown etiology’ by the end of March 2003, and the cause was eventually identified as a previously unknown Coronavirus.

SARS Virus is transmitted usually from person to person predominantly by the aerosolized droplets of virus infected material. The early symptoms of SARS include a high fever with chills, headache, muscle cramps and weakness. Later it was followed by other respiratory symptoms - a dry cough and painful or difficulty in breathing. Some patients require mechanical ventilation. The mortality rate of SARS is about 3%.

Coronavirus is one of a family of RNA-containing viruses known to cause severe respiratory illnesses. Acute respiratory distress syndrome - is a serious reaction to various forms of injuries to the lung, characterized by inflammation of the lung which leads to impaired gas exchange and release of inflammatory mediators causing inflammation and low blood oxygen. This condition leads to multiple organ failure in some cases. As this is life threatening with lethal consequences, it requires mechanical ventilation and admission to an ICU.

Diagnosis: Largely the diagnosis is based on the reported symptoms and a chest examination. Listening with a stethoscope will reveal abnormal sounds, and tapping on the patient’s back (which should yield a resonant sound due to air filling the Alveoli - the little air sacs clustered at the ends of the bronchioles, in which oxygen-carbon dioxide exchange takes place.) may instead yield a dull thump if the alveoli are filled with fluid and debris.


Treatment: As of now, there is no known clinically demonstrable therapy for the SARS infection. Usually in a pandemic condition involving this kind of virus, a treatment option is to offer supportive therapy - administration of fluids, oxygen and ventilation.

Precaution: Until a vaccine is developed, isolation and quarantine are potent tools in the fight against such pandemic. Both procedures seek to control exposure to infected individuals or materials. Isolation procedures are used with patients with a confirmed illness.Quarantine rules and procedures apply to individuals who are not currently ill, but are known to have been exposed to the illness.

The following techniques have been known to work in mitigating the spread of the virus:

  • Social distancing - stay away from each other until herd immunity takes place
  • Washing Hands with soap and water. Ensure that the soap lather is in your hands for at least 30-45 seconds for maximum effect
  • If soap and water is not available where you are, use Alcohol based hand sanitizer to wipe your hands clean. The sanitizer must have at least 60 % Alcohol content to be effective. The alcohol kills the virus and it is effective only when it is in a concentrated level. Wait for it to evaporate.
  • For sanitizing objects, subject them to powerful UV light. Ensure that your skin or eyes are not exposed to the UV radiation. Sufficient time of exposure and short distance to the source of the UV light are vital in killing the virus.
  • If you have a 500 W or above rated tungsten halogen bulb, it can be used to kill the harmful virus. The powerful broad spectrum light kills pathogens. Observe standard precaution of avoiding exposure to your body and eyes.

Coronavirus disease (COVID-19)

Corona viruses (CoV) belong to the family of virulent viruses which cause severe respiratory disease - from common cold to Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV). A new type novel Coronavirus (nCoV) strain has been linked to the outbreak from 2019 which has not been identified in humans.

Epidemic Origin: It has been established from the available data that Coronavirus is zoonotic (transmitted between animals and humans) . There are 7 strains of Viruses which cause respiratory disease. The common cold causing Viruses belong to the 4 strains while 2 others (SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV) result in the deadly infections - SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) and MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome). The last strain in this group causes Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (Sars-CoV-2). The disease it causes is known as Covid-19, so named after the year it started to manifest.

The SARS-CoV transmuted from bats to Civet cats and then to humans in China, while the MERS-CoV mutated from dromedary camels (Arabian camels) to humans in middle east.
As of now, the source of the SARS-CoV-2 has not been identified except that it originated in Wuhan, China.

The SARS-CoV-2 Virus spreads through 3 possible ways:

  • Direct Contact: Contact transmission results when a person touches any object that contains a live virus on it (fomite). Generally , 90 % of the virus is rendered inactive by the Ultraviolet (UV) rays present in sunlight.
  • Droplets: Small particles of mucus, saliva emanating from a person when s/he speaks or coughs. Generally large droplets drop down and rarely travel more than a meter or so.
  • Airborne transmission: Minute droplets, which come from an affected person when he sneezes, coughs or speaks, turn aerosol and can float suspended in the air for hours indoors under the right conditions. Humidity, other aerosolized contents, air movement and air density may play a role in the transmission of infection indoors. Increasing ventilation rate can lower the spread of this aerosol transmission.

Symptoms: it is not necessary for the patient to develop all symptoms immediately. Some may be ill for some time and then lapse into pneumonia. Or they may some symptoms initially and then become carriers themselves as they may not show debilitating symptoms further on.

  • 1. Fever
  • 2. Cough
  • 3. Breathing difficulties
  • 4. Shortness of breath
  • 5. body ache

The prognosis is grim for patients over 80 years of age. A study in China shows that the mortality rate for this group of patients is 14.8 % whereas for the overall population the mortality rate is 2.3 %. The lower respiratory tract infection may progress to pneumonia, acute respiratory syndrome, organ failure and death. There is some evidence that suggests that patients with type A blood group are 50 % more likely to require oxygen or ventilators as their genetic profile appears to make them susceptible to complications arising out of Covid-19 infection.

Normally our body immune system fights the pathogen as it enters our body. But during the process, the disease flares up in some cases and the same immune system tends to overact resulting in a condition called as cytokine storm which - if uncontrolled may lead to death. Some times this cytokine storm may be controlled with interleukin-6 (IL-6) inhibitor drugs.

Treatment: As it is a viral infection, there is no direct medication targeted at this Virus. Other than normal care, there is very little option available to treat the disease. Antibiotics may be prescribed to treat secondary infection if any.

The ongoing research to control the Covid-19 infection has tentatively identified some drugs which may have some benefit. The following drugs may show some benefit:

  • Ivermectin - A type of anthelmintics normally used to treat strongyloidiasis (threadworm, roundworm infestation) in animals or onchocerciasis (river blindness due to a type of roundworm infestation).
  • Interleukin 7 (IL-7) drug that increases the number of T lymphocyte - (T cells) which is primarily responsible for killing the pathogen. Normal blood count of T cells is 2000-4000 per micro liter of blood. But in a serious case of this virus, the blood count of T cells drops to an abnormally low level of even 200 per micro liter.

It is better to prevent the infection in the first place.


Coronavirus disease prevention

Prevention: Primarily the Virus spreads through droplets and body fluids. Avoid any crowded area if possible. Avoid contact with anyone who shows symptoms of respiratory illness - cough, sneeze and running nose. Allow at least 3 feet of space between you and the infected person. Wash your hands with soap thoroughly. Remember the germicide in the soap takes at least 30 seconds to work. So wash your hands for at least 30-45 seconds and then rinse.

Use alcohol based hand sanitizer to disinfect your hands before you touch your face/eyes/nose/mouth. Cook your food including meat at high heat thoroughly. Wash your hands and tools/implements in the kitchen well. Always use different cutting board and knife for vegetables and meat. Do not use the same cutting board or knife which was used to cut raw meat to cut cooked food.

Your pets - dogs and cats are safe as long as they remain indoors or move in restricted area. It has not been established that normal pets pose any threat unless you are in a severely affected area. Use the standard precaution of washing your hands thoroughly after you come in contact with your pets.


Tags: #Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) is a highly contagious and possibly fatal disease that first showed up in China in 2003. CDC and WHO came up with guidelines to control the infection. SARS has been described as an ‘atypical pneumonia of unknown etiology’ by the end of March 2003 # and the cause was eventually identified as a previously unknown Coronavirus. #Coronavirus disease (COVID-19)
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Collection of Pages - Last revised Date: July 11, 2020