The coronavirus disease (COVID-19) which first emerged in Wuhan, China in 2019 has evolved to become the pandemic that is still plaguing parts of the world until now. Thus, when people hear "coronavirus" what comes into mind is immediately the novel coronavirus or SARS-CoV-2 which causes COVID-19.

However, what many do not know is before COVID-19, there have other several coronaviruses that scared the world.


In November of 2002, the cases of a mysterious pneumonia-like disease first emerged in Guangdong province, China, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). It was, later on, found that the disease was caused by a coronavirus that came from horseshoe bats.

Due to its severe effect on the respiratory system, the disease was called Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome or SARS which was caused by the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2. Not unlike COVID-19, it was also suspected that SARS spread in animal wet markets particularly in civets which caused it to crossover to humans.

According to Medical News Today, on February 10, 2003, the WHO was first notified about the then-emerging infectious disease that has killed more than 100 people. The following month, a global alert was issued by the organization which warned about an atypical pneumonia infection that was spreading among the staff of hospitals.

Three days after that, an emergency travel advisory was put out especially to those who have exhibited symptoms, that was when WHO proposed that the disease may be spreading globally through air travel. In the duration of the outbreak, all essential travel to affected areas of SARS has been warned against by WHO. These included Toronto, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and areas in mainland China.

SARS was officially declared as under control on July 5 of 2003.

Here are some facts about SARS:

Causative Agent: SARS-CoV

Total number of cases: 8,439

Total number of deaths: 812

More of transmission: Respiratory droplets. ( Spread through coughs and/or sneezes)

Symptoms: Flu-like, fever, cough, and diarrhea

Vaccine: No vaccine

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After the 2002-03 SARS outbreak, the next coronavirus epidemic emerged in 2012. The said coronavirus was first reported by the Program for Monitoring Emerging Diseases on September 22, 2012, after it was first isolated from the sputum of a 60-year-old man from Saudi Arabia. The man has died three months before the discovery of the virus.

Since it first emerged in the Middle East, the disease caused by the coronavirus was called Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS). The virus that causes the disease was then coined as MERS-CoV.

MERS was also zoonotic in nature, which means that it was passed from animals to humans as well. WHO reported that most of the cases had direct and indirect contact with camels.

MERS cases, however, was relatively small compared to SARS and COVID-19 cases but has a higher mortality rate than the others.

Here are some facts about SARS:

Causative Agent: MERS-CoV

Total number of cases: 2,519

Total number of deaths: 866

More of transmission: Respiratory droplets from human to human, transmission from camels to humans still unclear

Symptoms: Flu-like, fever, cough, and shortness of breath

Vaccine: No vaccine

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