Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is an infectious disease caused by a new virus.
The disease causes respiratory illness (like the flu) with symptoms such as a cough, fever, and in more severe cases, difficulty breathing. You can protect yourself by washing your hands frequently, avoiding touching your face, and avoiding close contact (2 meters or 6 feet) with people who are unwell. Wearing masks are also advised and required in many parts of the world.
The virus that causes COVID-19 is mainly transmitted through droplets generated when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or exhales. These droplets are too heavy to hang in the air, and quickly fall on floors or surfaces.
You can be infected by breathing in the virus if you are within close proximity of someone who has COVID-19, or by touching a contaminated surface and then your eyes, nose or mouth.
Coronavirus disease spreads primarily through contact with an infected person when they cough or sneeze. It also spreads when a person touches a surface or object that has the virus on it, then touches their eyes, nose, or mouth.
People may be sick with the virus for 1 to 14 days before developing symptoms. The most common symptoms of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) are fever, tiredness, and dry cough. Most people (about 80%) recover from the disease without needing special treatment.
More rarely, the disease can be serious and even fatal. Older people, and people with other medical conditions (such as asthma, diabetes, or heart disease), may be more vulnerable to becoming severely ill.
There’s currently no vaccine to prevent coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
You can protect yourself and help prevent spreading the virus to others if you:
- Do Wash your hands regularly for 20 seconds with soap and water or alcohol-based hand rub
- Cover your nose and mouth with a disposable tissue or flexed elbow when you cough or sneeze
- Avoid close contact (2 meters or 6 feet) with people who are unwell
- Stay home and self-isolate from others in the household if you feel unwell
- Don't Touch your eyes, nose, or mouth if your hands are not clean
There is no specific medicine to prevent or treat coronavirus disease (COVID-19). People may need supportive care to help them breathe.
Self-care If you have mild symptoms, stay at home until you’ve recovered. You can relieve your symptoms if you: rest and sleep keep warm drink plenty of liquids use a room humidifier or take a hot shower to help ease a sore throat and cough
The above information is for informational purposes only. Consult your local medical authority for advice.
Naming the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) and the virus that causes it
Official names have been announced for the virus responsible for COVID-19 (previously known as “2019 novel coronavirus”) and the disease it causes.
The official names are:
Disease - coronavirus disease (COVID-19)
Virus - severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2)
Why do the virus and the disease have different names?
Viruses, and the diseases they cause, often have different names. For example, HIV is the virus that causes AIDS. People often know the name of a disease, such as measles, but not the name of the virus that causes it (rubeola).
There are different processes, and purposes, for naming viruses and diseases.
Viruses are named based on their genetic structure to facilitate the development of diagnostic tests, vaccines and medicines. Virologists and the wider scientific community do this work, so viruses are named by the International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses (ICTV).
Diseases are named to enable discussion on disease prevention, spread, transmissibility, severity and treatment. Human disease preparedness and response is WHO’s role, so diseases are officially named by WHO in the International Classification of Diseases (ICD).
ICTV announced “severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2)” as the name of the new virus on 11 February 2020. This name was chosen because the virus is genetically related to the coronavirus responsible for the SARS outbreak of 2003. While related, the two viruses are different.
WHO announced “COVID-19” as the name of this new disease on 11 February 2020, following guidelines previously developed with the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).
What is a pandemic?
"A pandemic describes an infectious disease where we see significant and ongoing person-to-person spread in multiple countries around the world at the same time.
The last time a pandemic occurred was in 2009 with swine flu, which experts think killed hundreds of thousands of people. Pandemics are more likely if a virus is brand new, able to infect people easily and can spread from person-to-person in an efficient and sustained way. Coronavirus appears to tick all of those boxes. With no vaccine or treatment that can prevent it yet, containing its spread is vital." BBC News
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