SARS, or Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, is an infectious disease that affects the respiratory system and can cause a deadly type of pneumonia. SARS is contracted when time is spent with a person already infected with the illness. Another way the disease is spread occurs when a person infected with the disease sneezes or coughs SARS-infected germs into the air and another person inhales these germs. SARS can also be spread by touching an object containing the SARS virus. Scientists think that SARS is caused by a virus in the coronavirus family. The coronavirus also causes insignificant sicknesses such as colds or diarrhea. Scientists also think that an animal possibly spread the disease to humans.
The first cases of SARS were discovered in November 2002 in the Guangdong province in southern China.The disease quickly spread to Hong Kong, Vietnam, Singapore, and Canada by February 2003.The disease was proclaimed contained in July of 2003. By this time the disease had affected 32 countries. 8,000 cases were reported and 800 people died.Since then very few new cases have been reported.
Those at high risk for contracting SARS include individuals over the age of forty who have a chronic illness. Before preventative measures were taken, many hospital workers in Asia who took care of patients infected with SARS contracted the disease, and then spread it to family members. Most of the people who were infected with SARS had recently traveled to a SARS-infected region.