COVID-19 Coronavirus vs. SARS: Differences, Symptoms, Mortality, Treatment

Basically, there are several Coronavirus strains that cause respiratory, gastrointestinal, liver and neurologic diseases in animals. Amongst them, only seven of coronavirus strains are known to cause disease in humans. SARS was the first pandemic of the 21st century, where Coronavirus (COVID-19) is the ongoing pandemic 2019-2020.

Basically, there are several Coronavirus strains that cause respiratory, gastrointestinal, liver and neurologic diseases in animals. Amongst them, only seven of coronavirus strains are known to cause disease in humans. SARS was the first pandemic of the 21st century, where Coronavirus (COVID-19) is the ongoing pandemic 2019-2020.

Check also our comparison article about Coronavirus (COVID-19) vs Influenza (Seasonal Flu).

Some Insight About Corona as a Virus:

Four of the seven coronavirus strains most frequently cause symptoms of the common cold. And less regularly severe lower respiratory tract infections, including pneumonia, for which a more prone group of people are: older people, who are over the age of sixty, the immunocompromised people, and people with chronic health conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, cancer, kidney disease, etc.

Three of the seven Coronavirus strains cause much more severe, and sometimes fatal, respiratory infections in humans than the other coronavirus strains. Hence, genetically very similar viruses cause both SARS and COVID-19, but their clinical presentation and severity of the disease they cause are quite different.

Is SARS a Coronavirus?

Yes, SARS is a Coronavirus (SARS-CoV or SARS-CoV-1), which was identified in China in 2003 and caused an epidemic in 2002-2003. It should not be confused with SARS-CoV-2 or MERS-CoV.

👉  Emt vs. Paramedic: What is the difference between Emt and Paramedic?

COVID-19 Coronavirus vs. SARS

The coronaviruses that cause severe respiratory infections are zoonotic pathogens, meaning which they begin in infected animals and then infect humans. Both COVID-19 and SARS are caused by coronaviruses, but their strains are entirely different.

  • CoV2 strain causes COVID-19, which is a novel coronavirus that originated in Wuhan, China, in the ending months of 2019 and is still spreading worldwide.
  • CoV strain causes Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), which was recognized at the end of February 2003, and was originated in Guangdong province of southern China in 2002.

Sources of the Different Viral Diseases:

SARS-CoV was associated with civet cats (a farmed wild animal). Possible animal sources of COVID-19 have not yet been confirmed by the World Health Organization (WHO), but that might be bats.

Is There a Difference in the COVID-19 vs. SARS Coronavirus Transmission?

Though the main route of transmission of both the viruses is through person-to-person transmission by respiratory droplets, SARS could also be transmitted through fecal matter, and COVID-19 can also be transmitted through surface contamination.

Studies have shown that COVID-19 is more transmissible than SARS, and the spread of SARS is probably more similar to that of Influenza.

Comparing the Transmission of COVID-19 China Coronavirus vs SARS Graph in Their Respective Outbreak Years:

SARS Coronavirus Transmission Graph:

SARS Coronavirus Transmission Graph

COVID-19 Coronavirus Transmission Graph:

COVID-19 Coronavirus Transmission Graph

Is There a Difference in the Incubation Period?

Yes, generally, the incubation period of SARS is 2 to 7 days, while that of COVID-19 can range anywhere between 1 to 14 days, median being 5.1 days.

Are There Differences in COVID-19 vs. Coronavirus SARS Symptoms?

Coronavirus COVID-19 Symptoms

Coronavirus COVID-19 affects different people in different ways. Still, it presents itself as a mainly respiratory disease with symptoms like:

  • Fever (most common about 88%), 
  • Tiredness, 
  • Dry cough, 
  • Shortness of breath, 
  • Aches and pains, 
  • Sore throat,
  • Diarrhea, 
  • Nausea, 
  • A runny nose might be reported by a few people. 
👉  Hypoxia vs. Hypoxemia: What’s The Difference Between Hypoxia And Hypoxemia?

Most of the immunologically healthy people recover without much special treatment (about 80%), but the people who are immunocompromised (underlying medical condition, old age, underwent major surgeries, diabetes, asthma, heart disease) are prone to severe disease and death.

Coronavirus SARS Symptoms

Whereas for Coronavirus SARS, the symptoms include:

  • fever (most common), 
  • Malaise, 
  • Myalgia, 
  • Headache, 
  • Diarrhea, 
  • And shivering (rigors). 

But, no cluster of symptoms has proved to be specific for a diagnosis of SARS.

In the first and/or second week of illness, cough (initially dry), shortness of breath, and diarrhea present themselves. While severe cases often evolve rapidly, progressing to respiratory distress and requiring intensive care.

Is There a Difference in Making the Coronavirus COVID-19 vs SARS Diagnosis?

  • The diagnosis of SARS was mainly driven by clinical symptoms and signs, at the same time
  • The diagnostic method is undertaken for COVID-19 is real-time reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) testing of upper and lower respiratory secretions.

Is There a Difference in the COVID-19 China Coronavirus vs. SARS Treatment Offered to Patients?

No, SARS was treated symptomatically, and even COVID-19 is being treated for its symptoms till now. Though various vaccines have been proposed for the COVID-19 pandemic, none of them have cleared the clinical trials successfully and are yet under development and not approved to be bought out for the public to get vaccinated.

COVID-19 Coronavirus vs. SARS Mortality

The Death Toll of SARS:

It was transmitted to more than 30 countries; hence experts called this “the 1st Pandemic of 21st Century”. In this outbreak, 8098 cases were reported worldwide, with 774 deaths (about a 10% case fatality rate, which varied significantly by age, ranging from less than 1% in people 24 years and older to more than 50% in those more aged than 65 years).

The Death Toll of COVID-19:

It has already transmitted to more than 206 countries, claiming [covid-watch status=”deaths”] lives already, and [covid-watch] confirmed cases worldwide. As these statistics suggest, though the fatality rate of COVID-19 is much lesser than that of SARS, it’s rate and extent of transmission are enormously higher than that of SARS.

👉  Male vs. Female Pelvis: What’s The Difference Between Male And Female Pelvis?

COVID-19 has compelled most of the countries to lock down their entire country, affecting millions of people’s lives, and these statistics do not include the lives claimed by it due to hunger, homelessness, and other problems that exist in developing and underdeveloped nations.

How Did the SARS End?

Most cases of man-to-man transmission occurred in the health care setups, in the absence of adequate and effective infection control precautions. The proper implementation of infection control practices brought the global outbreak of SARS to an end. No cases of SARS have been reported after the year 2004.

Comparison Table of Differences:

Viral StrainCoV2CoV
Originated inWuhan, ChinaGuangdong, China
Year of OriginationDecember 2019February 2002
Source Not sure (perhaps bats)Civet cats
The Primary Mode of TransmissionRespiratory dropletsRespiratory droplets
Incubation Period1-14 days2-7 days
SymptomsFever (most common about 88%), tiredness dry cough, shortness of breath, aches and pains, sore throat.Fever (most common), malaise, myalgia, headache, diarrhea, and shivering (rigors)
SpreadAround 206 countriesAround 30 countries
Cases Reported[covid-watch] and counting8098
Deaths Claimed[covid-watch status=”deaths”] and counting774
Fatality RateUnder evaluation but noticeably less that of SARS.Under 10%
Vaccinations UnderdevelopmentUnderdevelopment

COVID-19 vs. SARS Comparison Chart

COVID-19 Coronavirus vs. SARS Comparison Chart

SARS vs. COVID-19 Video

Family doctor uses lessons learned during SARS during COVID-19 pandemic

The Final Words:

The genetically similar virus causes both SARS and COVID-19, but their clinical presentation is different. Undoubtedly, SARS was a more deadly outbreak, whereas COVID-19 is a more contagious one. Both the diseases shocked the world and created a state of panic, but as COVID-19 has spread around ten folds more then SARS, the pandemic is threatening more lives.

Read our COVID-19 article to know more about this novel coronavirus COVID-19 disease with real-time numbers, tables, video, and live world map.


About Coronavirus Data 

The data is provided from Johns Hopkins University via the API, NovelCOVID API and some other sources mentioned in this article. COVID-19 data is updated on average every hour (from Johns Hopkins University), however, it may be out of date and not accurate because it changes rapidly. COVID-19 data doesn’t include all cases, because it includes only people who tested positive. You may also check information about reported cases on the WHO website.


This article may contain obsolete or inaccurate information. Only a healthcare professional is qualified to provide medical advice, and only the health authorities in your country have the authority to issue public health guidance.

The Site and application cannot and do not contain medical/health and related subjects advice or treatment. The medical/health and related subjects information is provided for general informational and educational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional advice or treatment. Accordingly, before taking any actions based upon such information, we encourage you to consult with the appropriate professionals. We do not provide any kind of medical/health and related subjects advice or treatment. THE USE OR RELIANCE OF ANY INFORMATION CONTAINED ON THIS SITE OR OUR MOBILE APPLICATION IS SOLELY AT YOUR OWN RISK.

If you think you may have a medical/health emergency, contact your doctor, medical/health professional or other qualified medical/health providers immediately.

For more information check our TOS & Disclaimer page.

Image Courtesy:

  • Photo by CDC on Unsplash
  • Photo by Fusion Medical Animation on Unsplash
Alex Stantor
Alex Stantor

Alex Stantor is a Sorbonne University (Paris, France) graduate in Philosophy and Data Analysis. Currently, he is an Author and Researcher at Difference 101, he writes articles/blog posts on topics such as "thinking differently" and "the importance of difference". Alex is a passionate advocate of diversity in the workplace and in companies, and diversity and inclusion in corporate communications. He currently lives in Brooklyn.

We will be happy to hear your thoughts

      Leave a reply

      Difference 101