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Ministry of Health

Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS)

The last case of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) worldwide was reported in a laboratory worker in China in May 2004. No cases have been reported since then, although all hospitals maintain surveillance on all cases of acute respiratory distress syndrome.

SARS is a respiratory illness. The main symptoms include fever, dry cough, shortness of breath or breathing difficulties. People can also experience headache, muscle aches, sore throat, fatigue and diarrhea.

SARS is spread by close contact with an ill person (i.e. sharing the same living space or coming within three feet of an infected person), the same way a cold is spread. You can protect yourself from SARS the same way you protect yourself from the common cold - with good hygiene practices, including:

  • frequent hand-washing - use plain soap and warm water for at least twenty seconds, or waterless hand rinses (alcohol-based);
  • immediate disposal of used tissues; and
  • avoiding close contact with ill people.

More information on SARS can be found on the following sites:

SARS and Your Health - BC HealthFiles


HealthLink BC

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HealthLink BC helps you learn about health topics, check your symptoms and find the health services and resources that you need for healthy living. Call 8-1-1 to consult with a nurse, pharmacist or dietitian or visit for easy access to help you find the health services you need, closest to where you live.

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Public Health Agency of Canada Information Line

For general inquiries about SARS, Influenza or Pandemic Influenza call Public Health Agency of Canada information line at 1 800 454-8302. The line is open 8 AM to 8 PM EST, Monday to Friday.