Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) is a viral disease that may be contracted by exposure to a newly recognized form of the coronavirus. It often manifests through a set of common respiratory symptoms that include fever and nonproductive cough. To date, SARS has no vaccine or definitive treatment. Approximately 20% of SARS patients develop respiratory failure, which requires mechanical ventilation and close cardiopulmonary monitoring. Intensive care unit (ICU) nurses and other healthcare workers who care for SARS patients are at risk of contracting the disease. Thus, it is important that ICU nurses be familiar with the disease and its implications for critical care. This article provides critical care nurses with an update on the first SARS outbreak, its origin, case definition, clinical manifestations, diagnosis, relevant infection control practices, management, and recommendations for the role of ICU nurses in dealing with future outbreaks.

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