Basic Facts

What Are Coronaviruses?

Coronaviruses (CoV) are a family of enveloped virus that was first discovered in the 1960s. Coronaviruses are most commonly found in animals, including camels and bats, and are not typically transmitted between animals and humans. However some strains of coronavirus are known to be capable of transmission from animals to humans, the most well-known being SARS-CoV (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus), responsible for a large outbreak in 2003, and MERS-CoV (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus), responsible for an outbreak in 2012.2

What Are the Symptoms of COVID-19?

The symptoms of COVID-19 include fever, cough, shortness of breath, chills, repeated shaking with chills, muscle pain, headache, sore throat, and new loss of taste or smell. Symptoms may also be very mild and resemble the common cold. In addition, there are reports of asymptomatic infections and pre-symptomatic transmissions of COVID-19.3

How Is The COVID-19 Virus Spread?

The COVID-19 virus, like all coronaviruses, is typically spread through the air via coughing or sneezing, via contact with an infected person. People with COVID-19 may not exhibit symptoms, but are still able to transmit the virus to other people. It may also be transmitted from touching contaminated surfaces and then touching the mouth, nose, or eyes. SARS-CoV-2 is thought to have originally spread from animals to humans, but person-to-person transmission is now occurring.4

According to the CDC, the virus that causes COVID-19 is constantly changing, and new variants of the virus are expected to occur. Sometimes new variants emerge and disappear, while other times, new variants persist.

Why Are Human Coronaviruses and Particularly SARS-CoV-2 a Concern?

SARS-CoV-2 is spreading quickly from person to person leading to widespread outbreaks globally. As with most emerging viruses, the risk depends on a number of factors, including ease of transmission, severity of symptoms and prevention and treatment options available. In the case of COVID-19, the possibility of asymptomatic transmission poses a challenge to containment strategies. There is also neither a vaccine or specific treatment.

Infection Control Measures

The CDC provides useful guidance and resources relating to the COVID-19 outbreak, including infection control measures. These should all be implemented when patients are suspected of being infected with a coronavirus.5


1. CDC. 2019 Novel Coronavirus, Wuhan, China. Accessed January 21, 2020

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