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Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) 

Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS)
Chapter:
Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS)
Author(s):

Merion Evans

and Diana J. Bell

DOI:
10.1093/med/9780198570028.003.0046
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date: 25 January 2020

Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) has been described by the World Health Organization (WHO) as the first serious and readily transmissible disease to emerge in the 21st century (WHO 2003a). The epidemic first appeared in southern China in late 2002 and was finally contained in July 2003 after spreading to 29 countries worldwide and infecting over 8,000 people with 774 reported deaths. The last known cases occurred in April 2004 after a laboratory acquired infection in China. The global response to the SARS epidemic, co-ordinated by WHO, led to the rapid identification of the causal agent, the development of diagnostic tests for the virus, the initiation of treatment protocols, estimation of key epidemiological factors affecting spread and the implementation of a range of public health interventions (WHO 2003a; Anderson et al. 2005).

The cause of SARS has been conclusively identified as a previously unknown coronavirus (Peiris et al. 2003a; Ksiazek et al. 2003; Drosten et al. 2003). Early reports suggested a wild animal reservoir for the virus and attention focused on the wildlife trade in southern China (Xu et al. 2004). Numerous animal reservoirs of the SARS coronavirus have since been identified (Shi and Hu 2007). Masked palm civets (Paguma larvata) have been most consistently identified as the intermediate host responsible for passing the virus to humans (Guan et al. 2003; Song et al. 2005; Wang et al. 2005), while the definitive hosts may be the horseshoe bat species (genus Rhinolophus) (Wang et al. 2006 ).

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