SARS without pneumonia could be common in outbreak areas

Results of research from Hong Kong in this week’s issue of THE LANCET suggests that severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) without pneumonia could be common among populations affected by SARS outbreaks.

SARS has now affected 30 countries in five continents, with more than 8400 cases and more than 910 deaths. A novel virus, the SARS coronavirus (SARS-CoV), is known to be the causative agent. Despite this knowledge, seroprevalence studies and mass screening for detection of possible subclinical and non-pneumonic infections are still lacking.

Patrick Woo from the University of Hong Kong and colleagues examined the seroprevalence of non-pneumonic SARS-CoV in the general population, non-pneumonic patients in hospital, and health-care workers during the SARS epidemic. Their findings suggest that non-pneumonic infections are more common than SARS-CoV pneumonia, providing a possible explanation for cases of SARS-CoV pneumonia in patients who had no obvious contact with other patients with SARS.

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