About Coronaviruses

  • Coronaviruses are common in different animals. Rarely, an animal coronavirus can infect humans.
  • There are many different kinds of coronaviruses. Some of them can cause colds or other mild respiratory (nose, throat, lung) illnesses.
  • Other coronaviruses can cause more serious diseases, including severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS).
  • Coronaviruses are named for their appearance: Under the microscope, the viruses look like they are covered with pointed structures that surround them like a corona, or crown.

Is this coronavirus different from SARS?

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.

How is COVID-19 treated?

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.

What are symptoms of COVID-19?

COVID-19 symptoms include:

  • Cough
  • Fever
  • Shortness of breath

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.

How did this new coronavirus spread to humans?

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.

How is COVID-19 spread?

COVID-19 can be passed from person to person through droplets from coughs and sneezes. COVID-19 has been detected in people all over the world, and is considered a pandemic.

The spread of this new coronavirus is being monitored by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the World Health Organization and health organizations like Johns Hopkins across the globe.