What is COVID-19?

What is COVID-19?

Coronavirus disease 2019, or COVID-19, is a disease that can cause what doctors call a respiratory tract infection. It can affect your upper respiratory tract (sinuses, nose, and throat) or lower respiratory tract (windpipe and lungs).

The COVID-19 outbreak quickly spread around the world. It spreads the same way other coronaviruses do, mainly through person-to-person contact. Infections range from mild to serious.

COVID-19 is one of seven types of coronavirus, including the ones that cause severe diseases like Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) and sudden acute respiratory syndrome (SARS). The other coronaviruses cause most of the colds that affect us during the year but aren’t a serious threat for otherwise healthy people.

Most people infected with the COVID-19 virus will experience mild to moderate respiratory illness and recover without requiring special treatment.  Older people, and those with underlying medical problems like cardiovascular disease, diabetes, chronic respiratory disease, and cancer are more likely to develop serious illness.

The best way to prevent and slow down transmission is being well informed about the COVID-19 virus, the disease it causes and how it spreads. Protect yourself and others from infection by washing your hands or using an alcohol based rub frequently and not touching your face.

The COVID-19 virus spreads primarily through droplets of saliva or discharge from the nose when an infected person coughs or sneezes, so it’s important that you also practice respiratory etiquette (for example, by coughing into a flexed elbow).

At this time, there are no specific vaccines or treatments for COVID-19. However, there are many ongoing clinical trials evaluating potential treatments. WHO will continue to provide updated information as soon as clinical findings become available.

Most coronaviruses aren’t dangerous. But in early 2020, after a December 2019 outbreak in China, the World Health Organization identified a new type of coronavirus. Officials named this new virus severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). This is the virus that causes COVID-19.

Know the symptoms

COVID-19 early symptoms include:

  • Fever
  • Dry Cough
  • Fatigue

The virus can lead to pneumonia, respiratory failure, septic shock, and death. If you notice these severe symptoms in yourself or a loved one, get medical attention right away:

  • Trouble breathing or shortness of breath
  • Ongoing chest pain or pressure
  • New confusion
  • Can’t wake up
  • Bluish lips or face
  • If you’re exposed and infected, symptoms can show up in as few as 2 days or as many as 14. It varies from person to person

The most common symptoms and the percentage of people who have them include:

  • Fever: 88%
  • Dry cough: 68%
  • Fatigue: 38%
  • Coughing up sputum, or thick phlegm, from the lungs: 33%
  • Shortness of breath: 19%
  • Bone or joint pain: 15%
  • Sore throat: 14%
  • Headache: 14%
  • Chills: 11%
  • Nausea or vomiting: 5%
  • Stuffy nose: 5%
  • Diarrhea: 4%
  • Coughing up blood: 1%
  • Swollen eyes: 1%
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