Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) is caused by a recently identified Coronavirus (SARS-CoV). The clinical symptoms are non-specific and during the first few days in particular, are not clinically distinguishable from those of many other viral or bacterial infections. The majority of infected patients develop pneumonia within a week of the first symptoms appearing. Since November 2002 the virus has spread from South China to almost 30 other countries, where about 8500 infected individuals have been registered; about 800 people have already died from the disease (9.5%). The number of infected persons includes a noticeably high percentage of health workers. This fact underlines the importance of good infection prevention measures for each patient contact. The implementation of hygienic measures requires attention, because the infection of personnel in Toronto hospitals still occurred after the virus and transmission routes were known. It appears that transmission can be prevented with relatively simple precautions, as long as these are consistently implemented. Early recognition and isolation of a possible source are an essential part of this. SARS is a group A notifiable disease (report if suspected). In the Netherlands the general practitioner has a prominent role in assessing and treating individuals who are infected or might be infected with SARS-CoV. A protocol and a detailed action plan are available. In addition to this hospitals should be prepared for the initial reception of a patient with SARS, who presents directly to the outpatients' clinic or Casualty Department.