SARS is caused by a strain of coronavirus, the same family of viruses that causes the common cold. Until now, these viruses have never been particularly dangerous in humans, although they can cause severe disease in animals. For that reason, scientists originally thought that the SARS virus might have crossed from animals to humans. It now seems likely that it evolved from one or more animal viruses into a new strain.

How SARS spreads

Most respiratory illnesses, including SARS, spread through droplets that enter the air when someone with the disease coughs, sneezes or talks. Most experts think SARS spreads mainly through face-to-face contact, but the virus also may be spread on contaminated objects — such as doorknobs, telephones and elevator buttons.

Jan. 02, 2014