COVID-19 vs SARS: All you need to know

Coronaviruses, in general are a group of viruses responsible for respiratory related infections ranging from mild common cold to a severe and deadly pneumonia.

1. What is COVID-19:

SARS-CoV-2 is the name of the virus which is the cause of the current pandemic Coronavirus Disease 2019(COVID-19).

2. What is SARS:

A similar type of Coronavirus, called the SARS Coronavirus, is accountable for causing non-serious flu-like illness leading to a Severe Respiratory distress Syndrome. SARS Coronavirus was identified in the year 2003. This outburst resulted in more than 8000 infections worldwide and close to 10% of the infected succumbed to death. The entire epidemic lasted for a period of 9 months causing chaos and tension all over the world before the infection got controlled.

3. Dissimilarities between COVID-19 and SARS Virus:

  • Transmission:
    • The initial case of COVID-19 infection was observed at Wuhan, China. The virus is believed to have spread from animals to humans. Although the exact mechanism of the spread is not very clearly known, it seems to have come from close contact with the respiratory droplets of animals or by contact with the surfaces contaminated with these respiratory droplets. Apparently people with infection and those suspected to have an exposure are being quarantined to control the spread.
    • SARS-CoV was also first detected in China in the year 2002. The transmission of this mass outbreak is believed to have come from civet cats. Civet cats seem to be a part of Chinese normal food and apparently these were infected by bats prior to consumption. Bats are supposed to be carriers of Coronavirus
    • SARS-CoV is also thought to be spread by respiratory droplets released into the air by cough or sneeze (by infected people or carriers) and also by contact of contaminated surfaces.
  • Symptoms:
    • Range of symptoms includes productive cough, fever, and difficulty in breathing. In extreme cases, the infection can lead to pneumonia. Higher mortality rates are seen in the elderly; the proportion of risk of infection increases with age.
    • Respiratory symptoms, cough, malaise and fever, all in severe forms
  • Diagnosis:
    • Analyses of upper and lower respiratory secretions using Real-time reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) method to detect the COVID-19 infection. Although in US this testing was initially limited to CDC, now the testing kit is made available in selected laboratories, since the infection has to be identified soon and controlled.
    • SARS infections were severe. Hence they could be easily diagnosed by clinical examinationitself.
  • Type of people affected:
    • COVID-19 is seemingly affecting the elderly and more so in people with already compromised immunity
    • SARS virus was most commonly seen to infect young and healthy individuals. Whatever the symptoms, modality of treatment for both SARS and COVID-19 is only symptomatic. SARS being severe and easily identifiable was handled faster by the authorities and controlled within a short time. COVID - 19 being asymptomatic for 14 days, progressing to moderate and then to severe in elderly has been a challenging task for the concerned authorities to bring it under control. Indian Government too has been taking a strong stand in closely monitoring the infection and determined to resolve the situation soon.
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