If you think you may have SARS, see a doctor as soon as possible. Some hospitals have set up special clinics for those who fear they have been exposed to SARS. For more information, call Health Canada's information line at 1-800-454-8302 1-800-454-8302
The main symptoms of SARS are high fever (higher than 38°C or 100°F), dry cough, and shortness of breath or trouble breathing.
Usually the fever appears first, along with muscle aches, chills, and dry cough. After 3 or 4 days, breathing problems grow more severe. About 80% to 90% of infected people start to recover after 6 to 7 days. However, 10% to 20% go on to develop very severe breathing problems and may need the help of a machine to breathe. The risk of death is higher for this group, and appears to be linked to the person's pre-existing health conditions. People over 40 are more likely to develop severe breathing problems.
People with SARS require treatment in a hospital. Because the disease is severe, treatment needs to be started based on symptoms, before the cause of the illness has been confirmed. First, people who are suspected of having SARS are placed in isolation to protect other patients and health care workers. Then, treatment begins. So far, no medication has been proven to cure SARS. Treatment may include antiviral medications (such as ribavirin), antibiotics, steroids, and intravenous (into a vein) fluids. Although antibiotics will not help with SARS (because it is believed to be caused by a virus), they may be used in cases where the person has a bacterial infection as well. People who experience severe breathing problems may need a machine, called a ventilator, to help them breathe.