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Diagnosing SARS

NHS Choices Medical Reference

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To diagnose SARS, all other possible causes, such as standard pneumonia, have to be excluded. To do this, a number of tests may be carried out including:

  • testing samples of saliva and mucus (sputum) for SARS CoV,
  • chest X-rays, and
  • blood tests.

SARS contact

A SARS contact is someone who has an increased risk of developing the illness. This is because they have been exposed to the SARS virus, either by being in close contact with a person with the illness, or by being in an area where there has been a recent outbreak.

Suspecting SARS

SARS is suspected if a person has an unexplained acute respiratory illness, and one, or more, of the following:
  • close contact with a person who has been confirmed as having SARS, or is thought to have SARS,
  • has travelled to an area where there has been a recent local transmission of SARS, or
  • has lived in an area where there has been a recent local transmission of SARS (within 10 days before the start of symptoms).


'Close contact' includes caring for, or living with, someone who has, or is suspected to have SARS, or having direct contact with the respiratory secretions (saliva), body fluids, or excretion (faeces) of someone with the illness.

Medical Review: December 11, 2008

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