What is SARS and MERS?

Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) is a viral respiratory illness caused by a coronavirus called SARS-associated coronavirus (SARS-CoV). SARS was first reported in Asia in February 2003. The illness spread to more than two dozen countries in North America, South America, Europe, and Asia before the SARS global outbreak of 2003 was contained (4). Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) is a viral respiratory disease caused by a novel coronavirus (Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus, or MERS‐CoV) that was first identified in Saudi Arabia in 2012 (5). MERS-CoV and SARS-CoV have been known to frequently cause severe symptoms. MERS symptoms usually include fever, cough, and shortness of breath which often progress to pneumonia. About 3 or 4 out of every 10 patients reported with MERS have died. MERS cases continue to occur, primarily in the Arabian Peninsula. SARS symptoms often included fever, chills, and body aches which usually progressed to pneumonia. No human cases of SARS have been reported anywhere in the world since 2004 (6).

(SARS) Severe acute respiratory syndrome
(MERS) Middle East respiratory syndrome
  • Coronavirus – Background and Symptoms
  • Signs and Symptoms of Coronaviruses – General Overview
  • Common human coronaviruses usually cause mild to moderate upper-respiratory tract illnesses, like the common cold. Most people get infected with these viruses at some point in their lives. These illnesses usually only last for a short amount of time. Symptoms may include:
    • Runny nose
    • Headache 
    • Cough
    • Sore throat 
    • Fever
    • General feeling of being unwell
    • Repeated shaking with chills
    • Muscle pain
    • New loss of taste or smell
  • Human coronaviruses can sometimes cause lower-respiratory tract illnesses, such as pneumonia or bronchitis. This is more common in people with cardiopulmonary disease, people with weakened immune systems, infants, and older
  • Signs and Symptoms of the Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV)
  • Source: WHO
  • Based on what was seen with other coronaviruses, it is believed that symptoms of 2019-nCoV may appear in as few as 2 days or as long as 14 after exposure
  • Emergency Warning Signs:
  • According to the CDC, seek medical attention immediately if you have any of these emergency warning signs8  *:
    • Trouble breathing
    • Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
    • New confusion or inability to arouse
    • Bluish lips or face
  • * This list is not all inclusive. Please consult your medical provider for any other symptoms that are severe or concerning to you.

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