Although there are currently no outbreaks of SARS, it is important to have as much information as possible about this virus because you never know when it will rear its ugly head again.
A newly discovered coronavirus causes SARS, or Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome. This viral respiratory illness first appeared in China in 2002, but it soon spread to North America, South America, and Europe. It appears to have been transmitted to humans through mixing of viruses among captive animals at market in China.
SARS usually spreads when an infected person coughs or sneezes, expelling droplets of fluid that come into contact with the mucous membranes (in the eyes or nose) of an uninfected person. People can also pick up SARS coronavirus by touching a surface or object contaminated by those droplets and then putting their hands to their eyes or nose.
According to the CDC, there is some suspicion among researchers that the SARS virus might spread through the air in ways that aren't yet known. The virus causes flulike symptoms, including fever, headache, muscle aches, a dry cough, and general discomfort. A small percentage of people with SARS may have diarrhea. Most people infected with SARS develop pneumonia.
Who's at Risk for SARS?
Anybody can contract SARS, but healthcare workers who come into contact with infected patients are most at risk. Those who are 40 and older are most likely to have complications. However, according to the CDC, SARS was not being transmitted anywhere on the globe at the time of this article's publishing.
Defensive Measures Against SARS
Although there are currently no outbreaks of SARS, there is always the chance the virus will rear its ugly head again. It's a good idea to follow basic infection-control tips. That means washing your hands well and often, or using alcohol-based hand sanitizers; covering your mouth and nose when you sneeze; not touching your nose, mouth, or eyes unless your hands are clean; and being extra vigilant in environments such as airplanes where viruses can easily jump from person to person.
While people often spread viruses to each other, the West Nile virus is spread by mosquitoes. Learn more on the next page.
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