Author's Note
This article has been updated with new information regarding SARS. For even more information, see the World Health Organization Web site.
In February of 2003, newspapers began reporting a rapidly spreading atypical pneumonia. Now identified as severe acute respiratory syndrome or SARS, this highly contagious condition is making international news every day. As of June 5, 2003, an estimated 8,403 cases have been reported -- with a total of 775 deaths attributed to the syndrome. The areas with the highest number of reported cases are:

  • Canada - 218 cases, 31 mortalities
  • China - 5,329 cases, 336 mortalities
  • China (Hong Kong SAR) - 1,748 cases, 284 mortalities
  • Singapore - 206 cases, 31 mortalities
  • Taiwan - 677 cases, 81 mortalities
  • United States - 69 cases, no mortalities
  • Viet Nam - 63 cases, 5 mortalities
Australia, Brazil, Colombia, Finland, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Kuwait, Malaysia, Mongolia, New Zealand, Phillipines, Republic of Ireland, Republic of Korea, Romania, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, and the United Kingdom have all reported cases as well, but there are fewer than 10 incidents in each nation. For regularly updated information regarding the cumulative number of reported SARS cases, visit this WHO Web site .

SARS Death Rate
The death rate for SARS has increased. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), age group and the presence of other illness or underlying disease have an incredible impact on the death rate. Right now the death rate for SARS breaks down like this:
Age Group Death Rate
24 yrs or younger 1%
25-44 yrs 6%
45-64 yrs 15%
65 yrs or older 50%

In this edition of How Stuff Works, we'll examine the symptoms, the current treatment, and the communicability of SARS, and we'll find out what is being done to cure or at least control the condition.

First, let's take a look at what exactly scientists think SARS is.