What is Coronavirus? Where did it originate?

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that typically infect animals but can occasionally evolve and spread to humans. SARS-CoV2 is a new strain of coronavirus identified as the cause of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), which is defined as an acute, sometimes severe, respiratory illness. Although health officials are still tracing the exact source of this new coronavirus, early hypotheses thought it may be linked to a live animal market in Wuhan City, Hubei Province, China.

Is COVID-19 the same as SARS?

No. The virus that causes COVID-19 and the one that caused the outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) in 2003 are related to each other genetically, but the diseases they cause are quite different. SARS was more deadly but much less infectious than COVID-19. There have been no outbreaks of SARS anywhere in the world since 2003.

What is a Pandemic?

On March 11, 2020, WHO Chief Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus officially desginated the Covid-19 outbreak as a pandemic because of deep concern over "alarming levels of inaction" over the virus. A pandemic is defined as the "worldwide spread" of a new disease. Whereas, an outbreak is the occurrence of disease cases in excess of what's normally expected and an epidemic is more than a normal number cases of an illness, specific health-related behavior or other health-related events in a community or region, according to the World Health Organization.

How does Coronavirus spread?

Though the virus most likely emerged from an animal source, COVID-19 is now spreading from person to person. The virus is thought to spread mainly between people who are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet) through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. It also may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads.

What are the symptoms of Coronavirus?

Patients with COVID-19 experience mild to severe respiratory illnesses. Symptoms include fever, cough and difficulty breathing and can appear two to 14 days after exposure, according to the CDC.

Emergency warning signs include:

  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
  • New confusion or inability to arouse
  • Bluish lips or face

Anyone experiencing these symptoms should seek medical attention immediately. Please note that the list is not all-inclusive.

For live updates, please reference these sources:

Sources: Centers For Disease Control (CDC), World Health Organization (WHO), Johns Hopkins Medicine, Merck Manual, CNN, New York Times, ABC7, American Red Cross