COVID-19

Background of the Outbreak

Coronaviruses (CoV) are a large family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-Co-V) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV). In more severe cases, infection can cause pneumonia, kidney failure and even death. A novel coronavirus (nCoV) is a new strain that has not been previously identified in humans.

Early on, many of the patients at the epicenter of the outbreak in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China had some link to a large seafood and live animal market, suggesting animal-to-person spread. Later, a growing number of patients reportedly did not have exposure to animal markets, indicating person-to-person spread. 

Person-to-person spread was subsequently reported outside Hubei and in countries outside China, including in the United States. Some international destinations now have apparent community spread with the virus that causes COVID-19, as do some parts of the United States. Community spread means some people have been infected and it is not known how or where they became exposed. Learn what is known about the spread of this newly emerged coronaviruses: cdc.gov/covid19

How the Coronavirus Spreads

The virus is thought to spread mainly for person-to-person. The virus can spread by tiny droplets made when people with the virus cough or sneeze. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly inhaled into the lungs. 

It may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes; but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads.

Common signs of infection include:

  • Respiratory symptoms
  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath and breathing difficulties


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