Coronaviruses (CoV) are a large family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases; as a group they are common across the world. Coronaviruses are zoonotic – this means that they are transmitted between animals and people.
COVID-19 is the infectious disease caused by the most recently discovered novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2. This new virus and disease were unknown before the outbreak began in Wuhan, China, in December 2019.
Origin of SARS-CoV-2 (the virus causing COVID-19)
All available evidence for COVID-19 suggests that SARS-CoV-2 also has a zoonotic source. It is now believed that that transmission of the virus to humans happened through some animal species more likely to be handled by humans. This intermediate animal host or zoonotic source (a domestic animal, a wild animal, or a domesticated wild animal) has not been identified. For more information, click here.
COVID-19 affects the respiratory system (lungs and breathing tubes). People confirmed to have COVID-19 may experience these symptoms:
- A new continuous cough
- A high temperature (above 38 degrees C)
- A loss of, or change in, your normal sense of taste or smell (anosmia)
- Shortness of breath
- A sore throat
Infections with mild symptoms (such as cold-like symptoms) or no symptoms at all are likely, though to what extent they occur is not yet known.
How serious is a COVID-19 infection?
The majority of people who have contracted Covid-19 locally have displayed mild or moderate symptoms, though some have become seriously ill, requiring hospital treatment. Those most at risk of becoming seriously unwell are those with a weakened immune system, particularly older people and those with pre-existing health conditions (such as diabetes, cancer and chronic lung disease).
How does COVID-19 spread?
COVID-19 is spread through touch (of contaminated surfaces or objects) and aerosol transmission. Read more about types of transmission here.
Not everyone who has had close contact with someone infected is then confirmed to have COVID-19, however the risk is far greater (read more on close contacts here).
WHO periodically updates the Global Surveillance for human infection with COVID-19. For information on case definitions, click here.
If you develop any COVID-19 suspected symptoms, go home immediately and call 111 for advice.
For an Easy Read guide to slowing the spread, click here.