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Is The Coronavirus Disease The Same As SARS

4 min read

By Dr. Chetan Ginigiri,MBBS(JIPMER), MD (PGIMER) Fellowship PICU (Kings College London), Head of Dept – Paediatric & Neonatal services, Aster CMI Hospital

Governments of different countries are taking strong actions, including social distancing, travel restrictions and curfews, to control or check the spreading of deadly COVID 19.  Meanwhile, scientists all over the world are trying their best to generate a vaccine against this deadly virus.

Even though mankind is facing the trait of Coronavirus causing COVID 19 (novel coronavirus) for the first time, there are other traits of coronaviruses that we are used to. Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that mostly infect birds and mammals. Different traits of the Coronavirus are behind different kinds of respiratory diseases. This ranges from the mild common cold to deadly MERS and SARS.

As we all know, COVID 19 is not the first cause that brings about an international health crisis. It happened in the past. As the viruses mutate, thereby creating new traits, it may happen in the future as well.

However, when COVID 19 happened, many people thought about another outbreak of viral respiratory disease we recently faced. The Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) outbreak in 2002 and 2004, which infected around 8,000 people, and kills 10% of those infected. The underlying pathogen of SARS is also Coronavirus. Is COVID 19 the same as SARS? Let’s evaluate.


Similarities Of COVID 19 And SARS

  • Both SARS and COVID 19 first started and spread in China
  • Both caused by the Coronavirus
  • The Coronavirus that causes SARS is called SARS-CoV, whereas, novel Coronavirus is called, SARS-CoV-2
  • Both cause severe respiratory illness
  • Just like COVID 19 SARS also quickly spread to around 26 countries
  • SARS-CoV originated in bats then spread to an intermediate animal host, the civet cat, from which humans were infected. Even though the specific species is yet to be confirmed, COVID 19 is also more likely started like that.
  • The means of spreading and the means by which people contracts both diseases are the same.
  • The ability of the virus to remain on different surfaces is almost the same.
  • Both SARS and COVID have similar at-risk groups.
  • Both SARS and COVID can lead to serious conditions that require oxygen mask and mechanical ventilation.

What Are The Difference Between SARS And COVID 19?

In spite of the similarities explained above, the two diseases and the viruses that cause them do differ in several aspects. Therefore, even though the majority of the signs and symptoms are similar, there are some important differences as well.

Let’s find the difference in signs and symptoms of SARS and COVID 19.

The key symptoms of COVID19 are fever, tiredness and dry cough, and shortness of breath. Some patients may have aches and pains, nasal congestion, runny nose, sore throat, or diarrhea. Whereas in SARS, In addition to the key signs of COVID, the patient also experiences malaise, severe body pain, and headache. They will not experience diarrhea, runny nose, nasal congestion, or throat infection.

Other key differences between SARS and COVID19 are

Severity: It is assessed around 20 percent of people with COVID-19 necessitate hospitalization for treatment. From this group, the only smaller percentage required mechanical ventilation. SARS cases were more severe. It’s estimated that 20 to 30 percent of people with SARS requisite mechanical ventilation.

Ro factor: The R0 (R-naught), is a numerical term used to measure how infectious and reproductive a contagious disease is.  Ro reflects the average number of people that possibly get infected from a contagious person. Remember, it doesn’t tell anything about the rate of spreading. Therefore some Ro high diseases spread more than RO low diseases. RO is just the potential of the infected person to spread. The rate of spreading depends on several other factors. Anyway, is high some diseases spread less than 2 to 2.5. COVID. Whereas, in SARS, it is 2 and 4, which means it is potentially highly contagious than COVID19.

Transmission Rate: AS already explained above, the Ro factor never tells us about how fast a particular disease transmitted. When it comes to transmission rate, COVID transmits more quickly than SARS. There is one explanation for this. In COVID, the virus starts to accumulate in the nose and throat of people from the very beginning of the infection. Sometimes, even before the infected person shows the symptoms, he can potentially spread the virus. Whereas, in SARS, the accumulation of virus happens during the later stages of the disease, thereby, the chances of spreading become less. COVID-19 is now vast spreading within communities because of its high transmission rate. However, in SARS, it commonly spread in healthcare settings than in a community.

Intensity Of Infection: SARS infected 8098 people. Out of this, roughly around 10 % died (774 people). When it comes to COVID19, already above 3065250 people are affected, and infection is still going on. Similarly, 211,609 people have died so far due to COVID, and the infection is not under control, and hence the death rate will increase.

Mortality rate: The mortality rates for COVID-19 have been estimated to range between 0.25% t0 3%. Whereas In SARS, the estimated mortality rate is about 10%, thereby, making it more deadly.

Dr. Chetan Ginigiri,MBBS(JIPMER), MD (PGIMER) Fellowship PICU (Kings College London), Head of Dept – Paediatric & Neonatal services, Aster CMI Hospital

Dr Chetan Ginigeri is an experienced Pediatric Intensivist with national and international training. With 15 years of experience, he is one among very few Intensivists in India trained to take care of children who need/had organ transplants. He has been responsible for coordinating the Pediatric Organ Transplant program.Read more.

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