Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) in children: epidemiology, presentation and management

Paediatr Respir Rev. 2003 Dec;4(4):334-9. doi: 10.1016/s1526-0542(03)00088-5.


Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) is a newly recognised and highly contagious respiratory infection caused by a new strain of coronavirus. The disease can result in progressive respiratory failure in adults and the mortality rate has been reported to be 8-15%. This infection spreads by droplet transmission and children appear to acquire SARS through close household contact exposure to infected adults. Disease severity is, however, much milder in the paediatric age group. The common laboratory findings in infected children and adolescents include lymphopaenia and elevated levels of lactate dehydrogenase and creatinine phosphokinase. Air space consolidation is commonly seen during the course of the illness although chest radiographs are normal on presentation in half of the cases. The pathophysiology of SARS appears to be related to immunological dysregulation in response to the coronavirus infection. The optimal treatment of SARS in children remains to be determined. No case fatality in infected children has been reported. The early and proper isolation of infected adults, meticulous infection control measures in the hospital setting, exhaustive contact tracing and quarantine measures are important steps in preventing the spread of the disease among health care workers and into the community. The development of a sensitive and rapid test for early diagnosis is underway. Further controlled trials are necessary to define the optimal treatment of this infection in children.

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Disease Outbreaks
  • Global Health
  • Humans
  • Radiography
  • Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome* / diagnosis
  • Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome* / diagnostic imaging
  • Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome* / epidemiology
  • Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome* / therapy
  • Severe acute respiratory syndrome-related coronavirus / isolation & purification