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Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus  (SARS-CoV) Research

SARS-CoV caused an infectious disease that was first identified in people in early 2003. Scientists believe the virus emerged from Guangdong province in China, infecting people who handled or inhaled virus droplets from cat-like mammals called civets.

By 2004, SARS-CoV disease had disappeared in humans, and scientists are not sure whether it will return. Though its stay was short, SARS-CoV changed how scientists respond to emerging infectious diseases by focusing on the need for global openness and immediate cooperation.

Prior to SARS-CoV, emerging infectious diseases were thought to take weeks or months to spread globally. SARS-CoV showed how efficiently a virus could spread through international travel. By mid-2003, SARS-CoV had spread to 29 different countries, including the United States.

Since then, scientists and public health officials around the world have worked to rapidly coordinate studies and emphasize the need to share information with colleagues at the start of infectious disease outbreaks. They did so in 2009 with an H1N1 influenza pandemic, in 2012 with MERS-CoV, and in 2013 with H7N9 influenza virus.

SARS-CoV Summary

According to the World Health Organization, more than 8,000 people were infected with SARS-CoV. Of these, 774 (9.6 percent) died. There were 74 probable cases in the United States, though no deaths. Half of the 774 deaths attributed to SARS were among people age 65 or older. Children were the least likely to acquire the disease.

Symptoms of SARS-CoV infection were flu-like, including high fever, head and muscle aches, cough, and shortness of breath. Most people with SARS-CoV ultimately developed pneumonia. The virus most commonly spread by close human contact; droplets of SARS-CoV can be released into the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes.

Though scientists developed several candidate vaccines and therapies for SARS-CoV, none have been licensed. Intensive and supportive medical care was the primary treatment option.

SARS Vaccine Research (2012 Jordan Report) (PDF)

Last Updated November 22, 2013

Last Reviewed October 28, 2013