If you have been diagnosed with severe acute respiratory syndrome or SARS, you may wish to go over the following questions with your physician:
1. With so much media hype on SARS, can I get the real picture on what this disease is?
SARS is a highly contagious and deadly disease of the human respiratory system brought on by the combination of the Coronavirus (a large group of virus causing common colds) family and the Paramyxovirus family (another group of virus that causes mumps and measles). This combination virus that causes SARS is termed as SARS-CoV (SARS-Coronavirus). During normal times, SARS exists in the nominal population.
2. What symptoms should I be wary of during this season?
Symptoms of SARS are often life-threatening with high fevers accompanied with chills and shivering. Other symptoms will include any or some of the following:
• Dry cough or sputum cough
• Sore throat
• Muscle pain and body ache (myalgia)
• Nausea and vomiting
• Shortness of breath
Research has shown that the body’s own immune system over-reacts to SARS-CoV causing more damage.
3. What diagnostic tests are available for screening?
Confirmatory diagnosis is done through a combination of tests. However, the easiest and sure method is prescribing a chest X-ray at the beginning of diagnostic procedures. In addition, blood clotting tests and those checking blood chemistry are also performed. Blood chemistry tests will include alanine aminotransferase (ALT) and (creatine phosphokinase) CPK checks along with checks on Lactate dehydrogenase (LDH), white blood cell count, platelet count and lymphocyte counts. In combination and reading the results together and in relation to other test results gives a complete and confirmatory diagnosis of SARS in usual times, since there is no pathognomonic appearance of SARS. Of late, some more tests have been added to arrive at conclusive results. There are also the cumbersome Immunofluoroscence tests and the PCR (polymerase Chain Reaction) tests that detect the presence of genetic material of the SARS virus from any body fluid
4. What is the ELISA, we so often hear about?