Protocol for isolation, testing and reporting of possible cases of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS)

The majority of patients with SARS have a clear history of either exposure to a case of SARS or to a setting where SARS transmission is occurring.

Page last updated: 21 September 2004

Patients should meet the following criteria of clinical features (Table 1) along with potential exposure (Table 2) before SARS coronavirus (SARSCoV) is requested. If the patient meets the criteria below; local infection control specialists should be contacted immediately, other causes of illness should be pursued concurrently, and public health authorities informed.**

Table 1. Criteria for isolation & performance of SARS Coronavirus test

Outbreak status
Criteria to be met
No person to person transmission anywhere in the world
  1. Potential Exposure AND
  2. Fever ≥ 38C AND
  3. One or more of cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing AND
    Chest X-ray changes consistent with SARS.

  1. Overseas areas of local person to person transmission1
  1. Potential Exposure AND
  2. Fever ≥ 38C AND
  3. One or more of cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing

  1. Person to person transmission within Australia1
  1. Fever ≥ 38 C AND
  2. Cough or shortness of breath or difficulty breathing

1 If the person is deceased, the criteria are pneumonia or acute respiratory distress syndrome at autopsy with no apparent cause.

Table 2. Criteria for potential exposure (within 10 days of illness onset)

  1. Travel (up to 20 days after isolation of last case) to areas where there have been cases of SARS
  2. Travel to an area of local transmission or,
  3. Contact with a person under investigation for SARS or
  4. Staff from laboratories handling live SARS CoV or
  5. Close contact with an ill person who meets criteria 1–4 or
  6. Case is part of a local SARS Alert1
    ( see definition (PDF file 82KB)

1Alert clusters of apparent hospital-acquired cases, in staff, patients and visitors to the same health-care facility that meet the WHO post outbreak clinical case definition for SARS.

* This protocol is intended to cover most circumstances. Specific situations outside these criteria should be discussed with the local infectious diseases specialist and/or director of local public health unit.

** Local and State public health authorities and The SARS Response Team in the Australian Government
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