What is the Coronavirus?
The "Novel Coronavirus" is a flu-like respiratory disease that originally broke out in China. It is part of the corona family of flu-like viruses that get their names from the Latin word for crown because of their crown-like appearance. Coronaviruses in general are common in both people and a variety of other species, but this one is different in that it was only recently identified and appears to spread from animals to people.
Similar outbreaks include the MERS-CoV (Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus) of 2012 and the SARS-CoV (severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus) of 2002. The illness that the virus causes is referred to as COVID-19.
3/11 Update: Coronavrius confirmed as a pandemic by the World Health Association
As of now, researchers know that the new coronavirus is spread through droplets released into the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes. The droplets generally do not travel more than a few feet, and they fall to the ground (or onto surfaces) in a few seconds — this is why physical distancing is effective in preventing the spread.
COVID-19 appeared in Wuhan, a city in China, in December 2019. Although health officials are still tracing the exact source of this new coronavirus, early hypotheses thought it may be linked to a seafood market in Wuhan, China. Some people who visited the market developed viral pneumonia caused by the new coronavirus. A study that came out on Jan. 25, 2020, notes that the individual with the first reported case became ill on Dec. 1, 2019, and had no link to the seafood market. Investigations are ongoing as to how this virus originated and spread.
It appears that symptoms are showing up in people within 14 days of exposure to the virus.
COVID-19 symptoms include:
In rare cases, COVID-19 can lead to severe respiratory problems, kidney failure or death.
If you have a fever or any kind of respiratory difficulty such as coughing or shortness of breath, call your doctor or a health care provider and explain your symptoms over the phone before going to the doctor’s office, urgent care facility or emergency room. Here are suggestions if you feel sick and are concerned you might have COVID-19.
If you have a medical emergency such as severe shortness of breath, call 911 and let them know about your symptoms.
Learn more about COVID-19 symptoms.
Diagnosis may be difficult with only a physical exam because mild cases of COVID-19 may appear similar to the flu or a bad cold. A laboratory test can confirm the diagnosis. Learn more about COVID-19 testing.
As of now, there is not a specific treatment for the virus. People who become sick from COVID-19 should be treated with supportive measures: those that relieve symptoms. For severe cases, there may be additional options for treatment, including research drugs and therapeutics.
As of July 14, 2020, 573,288 deaths have been attributed to COVID-19. However, 7,268,022 people have recovered from the illness. This information comes from the Coronavirus COVID-19 Global Cases map developed by the Johns Hopkins Center for Systems Science and Engineering.
SARS stands for severe acute respiratory syndrome. In 2003, an outbreak of SARS started in China and spread to other countries before ending in 2004. The virus that causes COVID-19 is similar to the one that caused the 2003 SARS outbreak: both are types of coronaviruses. Much is still unknown, but COVID-19 seems to spread faster than the 2003 SARS and also may cause less severe illness.
UPDATED 7/14/2020 using information from Johns Hopkins Medicine https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/coronavirus