COVID-19 Update

Health
A group of coronavirus virions
A group of coronavirus virions
A group of coronavirus virions

What Is Coronavirus?

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Coronaviruses are a type of virus. There are many different kinds, and some cause disease. A newly identified coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, has caused a worldwide pandemic of respiratory illness, called COVID-19.

What You Need to Know

COVID-19

  • COVID-19 is the disease caused by the new coronavirus that emerged in China in December 2019.
  • COVID-19 symptoms include cough, fever or chills, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, muscle or body aches, sore throat, new loss of taste or smell, diarrhea, headache, new fatigue, nausea or vomiting and congestion or runny nose. COVID-19 can be severe, and some cases have caused death.
  • The new coronavirus can be spread from person to person. It is diagnosed with a laboratory test.
  • There is no coronavirus vaccine yet. Prevention involves frequent hand-washing, coughing into the bend of your elbow, staying home when you are sick and wearing a cloth face covering if you can't practice physical distancing.

Lauren Sauer, M.S., the director of operations with the Johns Hopkins Office of Critical Event Preparedness and Response and director of research with the Johns Hopkins Biocontainment Unit, shares information about COVID-19 and what you need to know.

How does the new coronavirus spread?

As of now, researchers know that the new coronavirus is spread through droplets released into the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes. The droplets generally do not travel more than a few feet, and they fall to the ground (or onto surfaces) in a few seconds — this is why physical distancing is effective in preventing the spread.

How did this new coronavirus spread to humans?

COVID-19 appeared in Wuhan, a city in China, in December 2019. Although health officials are still tracing the exact source of this new coronavirus, early hypotheses thought it may be linked to a seafood market in Wuhan, China. Some people who visited the market developed viral pneumonia caused by the new coronavirus. A study that came out on Jan. 25, 2020, notes that the individual with the first reported case became ill on Dec. 1, 2019, and had no link to the seafood market. Investigations are ongoing as to how this virus originated and spread. 

What is the incubation period for COVID-19?

It appears that symptoms are showing up in people within 14 days of exposure to the virus.

What have you learned about coronavirus in the last six months?

Infectious disease expert Lisa Maragakis explains the advances in COVID-19 treatments and how knowledge of COVID-19 can assist in preventing further spread of the virus.

What are symptoms of COVID-19?

COVID-19 symptoms include:

  • Cough
  • Fever or chills
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Sore throat
  • New loss of taste or smell
  • Diarrhea
  • Headache
  • New fatigue
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Congestion or runny nose

In rare cases, COVID-19 can lead to severe respiratory problems, kidney failure or death.

If you have a fever or any kind of respiratory difficulty such as coughing or shortness of breath, call your doctor or a health care provider and explain your symptoms over the phone before going to the doctor’s office, urgent care facility or emergency room. Here are suggestions if you feel sick and are concerned you might have COVID-19.

If you have a medical emergency such as severe shortness of breath, call 911 and let them know about your symptoms.

Learn more about COVID-19 symptoms.

What Is Coronavirus?

How is COVID-19 diagnosed?

Diagnosis may be difficult with only a physical exam because mild cases of COVID-19 may appear similar to the flu or a bad cold. A laboratory test can confirm the diagnosis. Learn more about COVID-19 testing.

How is COVID-19 treated?

As of now, there is not a specific treatment for the virus. People who become sick from COVID-19 should be treated with supportive measures: those that relieve symptoms. For severe cases, there may be additional options for treatment, including research drugs and therapeutics.

Does COVID-19 cause death?

As of September 25, 2020, 983,720 deaths have been attributed to COVID-19. However, 22,258,508 people have recovered from the illness. This information comes from the Coronavirus COVID-19 Global Cases map developed by the Johns Hopkins Center for Systems Science and Engineering.

Is this coronavirus different from SARS?

SARS stands for severe acute respiratory syndrome. In 2003, an outbreak of SARS started in China and spread to other countries before ending in 2004. The virus that causes COVID-19 is similar to the one that caused the 2003 SARS outbreak: both are types of coronaviruses. Much is still unknown, but COVID-19 seems to spread faster than the 2003 SARS and also may cause less severe illness.

How do you protect yourself from this coronavirus?

It’s crucial to practice good hygiene, respiratory etiquette and physical distancing. Read more about ways to protect yourself.

Illustrated tablet with multiple choice answer selections

Coronavirus (COVID-19) Self-Checker

Check symptoms. Protect yourself. Get information.

Coronavirus: What do I do if I Feel Sick?

If you are concerned that you may have COVID-19, follow these steps to help protect your health and the health of others.

About Coronaviruses

  • Coronaviruses are common in different animals. Rarely, an animal coronavirus can infect humans.
  • There are many different kinds of coronaviruses. Some of them can cause colds or other mild respiratory (nose, throat, lung) illnesses.
  • Other coronaviruses can cause more serious diseases, including severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS).
  • Coronaviruses are named for their appearance: Under the microscope, the viruses look like they are covered with pointed structures that surround them like a corona, or crown.
Scientist carefully insets a pipette into a test tube.

Coronavirus (COVID-19)

What you need to know from Johns Hopkins Medicine.

Updated September 25, 2020