Researchers at Chinese University in Hong Kong have released preliminary findings that suggest SARS is much milder in children and teens than in adults. Scientists found that while teens had symptoms similar to those of adults (muscle aches and chills) younger children tended to have milder symptoms, such as coughs and runny noses, and recovered sooner.
The first case of SARS was diagnosed in November 2002 in southern China's Guangdong province, and within one month the province reported 300 cases. The disease quickly spread to 20 other countries, including parts of Asia, Europe, and North America; by April 2003 there were 3,000 cases of SARS reported and more than 100 deaths worldwide. To put things in perspective, however, flu-related complications kill more than 36,000 people every year in the United States alone. The SARS epidemic had faded away by the end of summer 2003. A few new cases appeared in 2004.
SARS is caused by a previously unrecognized coro-navirus; these viruses are a common cause of mild-to-moderate upper respiratory illness in humans; they also are associated with respiratory, gastrointestinal, liver, and neurological disease in animals.
The primary way that SARS appears to spread is by close person-to-person contact. Most cases of SARS have involved people who cared for or lived with someone with SARS, or had direct contact with infectious material (for example, respiratory secretions) from a person who had SARS. Potential ways in which SARS can be spread include touching the skin of other people or objects that are contaminated with infectious droplets and then touching the eyes, nose, or mouth. This can happen when someone who is sick with SARS coughs or sneezes droplets onto themselves, other people, or nearby surfaces. It also is possible that SARS can be spread more broadly through the air or by other ways that are currently not known.
Most SARS cases occur among those who have come into direct contact with an infected person (either those living with someone infected with SARS or health-care workers who did not use infection control procedures while taking care of a patient with SARS). Those in the United States infected with the disease had traveled to and from a SARS hotbed region.
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