What is Coronavirus COVID-19?

The recent coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak is a rapidly evolving situation with new information available each day. It’s important for families to stay up to date on trustworthy facts. These resources provide reliable information and the latest news on COVID-19.

What is COVID-19?

A new respiratory virus that caused severe pneumonia was first identified in Wuhan City, Hubei Province, China. The virus is now spreading person-to-person in growing numbers in greater than 50 countries.

Different parts of the country are seeing different levels of COVID-19 activity. The United States nationally is currently in the initiation phases, but states where community spread is occurring are in the acceleration phase. The duration and severity of each phase can vary depending on the characteristics of the virus and the public health response.

  • CDC and state and local public health laboratories are testing for the virus that causes COVID-19. View CDC’s Public Health Laboratory Testing map.
  • All 50 states have reported cases of COVID-19 to CDC.
  • U.S. COVID-19 cases include:
    • Imported cases in travelers
    • Cases among close contacts of a known case
    • Community-acquired cases where the source of the infection is unknown.
  • Three U.S. states are experiencing sustained community spread.
  • View latest case counts, deaths, and a map of states with reported cases.

What is a novel coronavirus?

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that are common in humans, and others, such as animals. Occasionally, we see new (novel) coronaviruses that have not previously been described in humans. There are many types of human coronaviruses, including some that commonly cause mild upper-respiratory tract illnesses.

This virus was originally thought to have emerged from an animal source that infected humans, but now we are seeing the virus spread from person to person. At this time, it is unclear how easily this virus is spreading between people.

It can cause mild cold-like symptoms as well as severe pneumonia requiring ventilator support. It can be virulent and cause severe pulmonary disease, which we have seen in previous outbreaks with Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS).

How does COVID-19 spread?

The current understanding of how this virus causes COVID-19 is based on what we know about coronaviruses in general. This virus is spread mostly person to person. Like the common cold, it is spread by droplets, which are often generated when a person coughs or sneezes. One can be exposed when in close contact (within 6 feet) to someone who is sick. People are thought to be most contagious when they have symptoms. There have been reports of people becoming sick after contact with someone with little to no symptoms (asymptomatic) but this is not thought to be the main method of the virus spreading in the community.


How easily does it spread in a community?

The virus that causes COVID-19 seems to be spreading easily and sustainably in a community where it is thought that for every 1 person that is infected, that potentially 2 other people can get the infection if they do not protect themselves with simple preventive measures, such as hand hygiene. There has been description of one infected person spreading to more than 2, but these are rare scenarios.

This virus is thought to be more contagious than the seasonal flu but much less than other highly contagious viruses, such as measles or chickenpox.


How can I help protect myself?

Everyday preventive actions to help prevent the spread of respiratory viruses will work with this novel coronavirus. Those actions include:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol if soap and water are not available.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.

What are the symptoms and complications of virus that causes COVID-19?

Current symptoms reported for patients with COVID-19 have included mild to severe respiratory illness with fever, cough and difficulty breathing.

The CDC believes that symptoms may appear anywhere from 2 to 14 days after exposure

Who should be concerned about getting COVID-19?

If you develop a fever or symptoms of respiratory illness, such as cough or shortness of breath, you should call your physician.