Since late February 2003, CDC has been supporting the World Health Organization (WHO) in the investigation of a multicountry outbreak of atypical pneumonia being referred to as severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS).
You are at risk of contracting SARS if you have returned from travel to parts of Asia, including China (Guangdong Province), Hong Kong, Singapore or Vietnam (Hanoi). Symptoms appear within 10 days of exposure. If you have been exposed and have symptoms you should see a doctor immediately.
Based on currently available evidence, close contact with an infected person poses the highest risk of the infective agent spreading from one person to another. To date, the majority of cases have occurred in hospital workers who have cared for SARS patients and close family members and other close contacts of these patients. However, the amount of the infective agent needed to cause an infection has not yet been determined. The SARS virus can live up to 4 days on a toilet seat.
The greatest protection is provided by the use of a surgical mask during any exposure – more effective than the use of a gown, gloves and hand washing combined.
Initial diagnostic testing for suspected SARS patients should include chest radiograph, pulse oximetry, blood cultures, sputum Gram's stain and culture, and testing for viral respiratory pathogens, notably influenza A and B and respiratory syncytial virus. A specimen for Legionella and pneumococcal urinary antigen testing should also be considered. Clinicians should save any available clinical specimens (respiratory, blood, and serum) for additional testing until a specific diagnosis is made. Acute and convalescent (greater than 21 days after onset of symptoms) serum samples should be collected from each patient who meets the SARS case definition. Paired sera and other clinical specimens can be forwarded through State and local health departments for testing at CDC. Specific instructions for collecting specimens from suspected SARS patients are available.
No specific treatment recommendations can be made at this time. Empiric therapy should include coverage for organisms associated with any community-acquired pneumonia of unclear etiology, including agents with activity against both typical and atypical respiratory pathogens. Treatment choices may be influenced by severity of the illness. Infectious disease consultation is recommended.