People started to notice that a new illness was making people very sick in Wuhan, a large city in China, at the end of 2019.
Scientists got to work and discovered the illness is caused by a new virus within the coronavirus family. Coronaviruses usually circulate among animals but sometimes can also infect people. SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) and MERS (Middle East respiratory syndrome) are serious diseases caused by other coronaviruses.
This new coronavirus was named the “severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2”, or SARS-CoV-2 for short. It causes the coronavirus disease, or COVID-19 for short.
COVID-19 has spread very quickly and widely. It was declared a global pandemic by the World Health Organization (“WHO”) on March 11, 2020. According to the WHO, you can catch COVID-19 from infected people through small droplets from their nose of mouth. When somebody who has COVID-19 coughs or exhales, small droplets land all around them. You can catch COVID-19 by touching somewhere a droplet landed, then touching your own eyes, nose or mouth. You can also get COVID-19 from breathing in an infected person’s small droplets when you are close to them.
The most common symptoms of COVID-19 are fever, tiredness and dry cough. Some infected people don’t develop any symptoms or feel unwell, while others get aches and pains, nasal congestion, sore throat or diarrhoea. Most people recover without needing special treatment, but some become very ill and have difficulty breathing.
The WHO advises that you can reduce your chances of being infected or spreading COVID-19 by:
- Cleaning your hands regularly
- Keeping at least 1 meter/3 feet distance between you and anyone coughing or sneezing
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth
- Covering your mouth and nose with your bent elbow or tissue when coughing or sneezing
- Staying home if you feel unwell
To find out more, please visit www.who.int.