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SARS: The Rise of a Deadly Global Threat Essay

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Updated: Sep 17th, 2021

Just two years after the reign of terror brought about by the September 11 terrorist attacks at the World Trade Center, people were again scared as they scurried to take precautions in protecting themselves against a fatally virulent respiratory illness that is as readily acquired as the common cold. Only known as the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), the disease has spread all over the globe killing hundreds of people and scaring thousands more. Many people are clueless about the nature of this disease that sparked in 2003, they had no choice but to wear face masks, avoid traveling, wash their hands cautiously, and call their doctors at the first sign of runny nose (Rados, 2003). Indeed, SARS is a deadly global threat that has challenged global health standards about handling such an epidemic.

According to the latest World Health Organization (WHO) Guidelines for SARS (2004), SARS was first recognized as a global threat in mid-2003. However, the first known cases of SARS occurred in Guangdong province of China, in 2002. Scientists have determined that the etiological agent of SARS is a coronavirus (SARSCoV), which is believed to be an animal virus that “crossed the species barrier to humans recently due to ecological changes or changes in human behavior that increased opportunities for human exposure to the virus and virus adaptation, enabling human-to-human transmission” (Antia, 2003 as cited by WHO, 2004). By July 2003, the international scope of SARS resulted in 8,098 cases in 26 countries, tolled 774 deaths worldwide. According to the WHO, the last human chain of transmission of SARS in that epidemic had been broken in 2003 (WHO, p. 6).

The symptoms of SARS may be hardly seen in people during its initial stages because it can be mistaken for a common cold. SARS symptoms include high fever, coughs, headache, body aches, diarrhea, and overall discomfort. A small percentage of cases experienced diarrhea. SARS cases develop a deep cough and pneumonia. However, about 10% of SARS cases end in death. The incubation period can be as long as fourteen days.

SARS is transmitted by “close person-to-person contact” and is characterized as a “propagated outbreak”. The SARS virus can be transmitted directly by respiratory droplets that result from sneezing and coughing at close proximity (up to 3 feet). It is also thought that the SARS virus can be transmitted indirectly by coming into contact with droplets on contaminated surfaces. Corollary to this, experts who studied the origins of SARS reiterated that the natural reservoir of SARS-CoV has not been identified, yet a number of wildlife species like the Himalayan masked palm civet (Paguma larvata), the Chinese ferret badger (Melogale moschata), and the raccoon dog (Nyctereutes procyonoides), which are all consumed as delicacies in southern China have shown laboratory evidence of infection with a related coronavirus. Also, domestic cats living in the Amoy Gardens apartment block in Hong Kong were also found to be infected with SARS-CoV. More recently, ferrets (Mustela furo) and domestic cats (Felis domesticus) were infected with SARS-CoV experimentally and found to efficiently transmit the virus to previously uninfected animals housed with them. However, these possible “transmissions” of SARS from animals to humans or to other animal species still needed to be investigated further (WHO 2004, p. 6).

As of this time, no clear treatment has been recognized for SARS. In fact, accurate and rapid screening diagnostic tests for SARS have been developed but are not yet licensed in the United States. During the epidemic, healthcare workers generally relied on clinical symptoms for detection. WHO defined a suspected SARS case as someone with a temperature over 38 degrees Celsius (100.4 degrees Fahrenheit), a cough or difficulty breathing, and one or more of the following exposures: close contact with a person who is a suspect or probable SARS case, or someone who has lived in or visited a region with SARS transmissions. A “probable case” is a suspected case with radiographic evidence of pneumonia or positive laboratory tests that may take days to weeks to complete. No proven therapy is available for severe SARS pneumonia cases. Most doctors recommend respiratory support, antibiotics, fever reduction, and hydration. Some Chinese doctors have used steroids and the antiviral drug ribavirin with varying degrees of success (National Intelligence Council, 2005).

As an infectious disease, SARS can have affected the health standards of every nation. Most SARS cases occur in people who care for or live with SARS patients or have direct contact with infectious materials. Experts only recommend the isolation of individuals with SARS but not quarantine. This is why more studies and research about SARS are needed to fully understand this fatal disease. Health professionals should also be educated to be prepared for scenarios in the future course of SARS and all governments should unite in finally eliminating this dreaded virus.

Bibliography

Antia R., Rogoes R.R. & Koella, J.C., & Bergstrom, C.T. 2003. The role of evolution in the emergence of infectious diseases. Nature, 426, 658-661.

National Intelligence Council. 2005. SARS is a continuing threat. In V. Wagner (Ed.), At Issue: Do Infectious Diseases Pose a Serious Threat? San Diego: Greenhaven Press.

Rados, C. 2003. SARS protecting against a deadly disease. FDA Consumer, 37, 14-15.

World Health Organization (WHO). 2004. WHO guidelines for the global surveillance of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS). Web.

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IvyPanda. "SARS: The Rise of a Deadly Global Threat." September 17, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/sars-the-rise-of-a-deadly-global-threat/.

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IvyPanda. 2021. "SARS: The Rise of a Deadly Global Threat." September 17, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/sars-the-rise-of-a-deadly-global-threat/.

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IvyPanda. (2021) 'SARS: The Rise of a Deadly Global Threat'. 17 September.

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