COVID-19, or coronavirus disease 2019, is an infection caused by a specific virus type of novel coronavirus, the SARS-CoV-2. The virus first appeared in late 2019 in the city of Wuhan, China. But it has spread quickly since then, and there are now cases in all continents.
In February 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) named the disease COVID-19., and the virus that causes COVID-19 is called severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2).1
Coronaviruses are a family of viruses that can cause respiratory illnesses with symptoms ranging from those similar to a common cold to pneumonia and severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS).
At the end of 2019, a new, novel coronavirus was identified as the cause of several cases of pneumonia in Wuhan, a city in the Hubei Province of China.
It rapidly spread, resulting in an epidemic throughout China, followed by an increasing number of cases in other countries throughout the world.
The World Health Organization declared a global pandemic in March 2020.2
As of March 22nd, 2020, more than 290,000 people in 184 countries have been infected, with 13,000 deaths. Live information can be obtained from WHO's website.3
Maintain a healthy lifestyle to boost your immune system.
Although there is no vaccine available to prevent infection with the novel coronavirus, you can take steps to reduce your risk of infection. Similar to the New Zealand Ministry of Health16, the Australian Government Department of Health17 recommends following these precautions for avoiding COVID-19.
Should I see a doctor or a nurse?17
COVID-19 is different from a regular flu. Although the majority of people who contract it will experience mild to moderate respiratory symptoms, it appears to spread more rapidly, causes more severe respiratory disease and carries a higher death rate. Preventive measures, such as good hygiene, social distancing and social isolation are key to stop the spread of the disease.
1. World Health Organization. Director-General’s remarks at the media briefing on 2019-nCoV on 11 February 2020.
2. World Health Organization. WHO Director-General’s Opening Remarks at the Media Briefing on COVID-19 - 11 March 2020.; 2020.
3. World Health Organisation. Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) Pandemic. https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019. Accessed May 3, 2020.
4. World Health Organization. Novel Coronavirus Situation Report-2. January 22, 2020.; 2020.
5. Li Q, Guan X, Wu P, et al. Early Transmission Dynamics in Wuhan, China, of Novel Coronavirus–Infected Pneumonia. N Engl J Med. 2020. doi:10.1056/nejmoa2001316
6. Guan W-J, Ni Z-Y, Hu Y, et al. Clinical Characteristics of Coronavirus Disease 2019 in China. N Engl J Med. 2020. doi:10.1056/NEJMoa2002032
7. Chan JFW, Yuan S, Kok KH, et al. A familial cluster of pneumonia associated with the 2019 novel coronavirus indicating person-to-person transmission: a study of a family cluster. Lancet. 2020. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(20)30154-9
8. Bajema KL, Oster AM, McGovern OL, et al. Persons Evaluated for 2019 Novel Coronavirus - United States, January 2020. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2020. doi:10.15585/mmwr.mm6906e1
9. Huang C, Wang Y, Li X, et al. Clinical features of patients infected with 2019 novel coronavirus in Wuhan, China. Lancet. 2020. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(20)30183-5
10. Chen N, Zhou M, Dong X, et al. Epidemiological and clinical characteristics of 99 cases of 2019 novel coronavirus pneumonia in Wuhan, China: a descriptive study. Lancet. 2020. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(20)30211-7
11. Wang D, Hu B, Hu C, et al. Clinical Characteristics of 138 Hospitalized Patients with 2019 Novel Coronavirus-Infected Pneumonia in Wuhan, China. JAMA - J Am Med Assoc. 2020. doi:10.1001/jama.2020.1585
12. Xydakis MS, Dehgani-Mobaraki P, Holbrook EH, et al. Smell and taste dysfunction in patients with COVID-19. Lancet Infect Dis. April 2020. doi:10.1016/s1473-3099(20)30293-0
13. Wu Z, McGoogan JM. Characteristics of and Important Lessons From the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Outbreak in China. JAMA. 2020. doi:10.1001/jama.2020.2648
14. Zhou F, Yu T, Du R, et al. Articles Clinical course and risk factors for mortality of adult inpatients with COVID-19 in Wuhan , China : a retrospective cohort study. Lancet. 2020. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(20)30566-3
15. Korea Centre for Disease Control and Prevention. Updates on COVID-19 in Korea. March 14, 2020.; 2020.
16. Health NZM of. COVID-19 (novel coronavirus) – health advice for the general public | Ministry of Health NZ. Ministry of Health, Manatu Hauora. https://www.health.govt.nz/our-work/diseases-and-conditions/covid-19-novel-coronavirus/covid-19-novel-coronavirus-health-advice-general-public. Published 2020. Accessed March 17, 2020.
17. Australian Government Department of Health. Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19): What You Need to Know. Version 15 (17/03/2020).; 2020.