Coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19) is caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2

Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is an infectious disease caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). The disease was first identified in December 2019 in Wuhan, the capital of China’s Hubei province, and has since spread globally, resulting in the ongoing 2019–20 coronavirus pandemic. Common symptoms include fever, cough, and shortness of breath. Other symptoms may include muscle pain, sputum production, diarrhea, sore throat, loss of smell, and abdominal pain. While the majority of cases result in mild symptoms, some progress to viral pneumonia and multi-organ failure. As of 3 April 2020, more than 1,050,000 cases of COVID-19 have been reported in more than two hundred countries and territories, resulting in over 55,700 deaths. More than 221,000 people have recovered.

The virus is mainly spread during close contact, and by small droplets produced when people cough, sneeze, or talk. Respiratory droplets may be produced during breathing but the virus is not generally airborne. People may also contract COVID-19 by touching a contaminated surface and then their face. It is most contagious when people are symptomatic, although spread may be possible before symptoms appear. The virus can survive on surfaces up to 72 hours. Time from exposure to onset of symptoms is generally between two and fourteen days, with an average of five days. The standard method of diagnosis is by reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (rRT-PCR) from a nasopharyngeal swab. The infection can also be diagnosed from a combination of symptoms, risk factors and a chest CT scan showing features of pneumonia.

Recommended measures to prevent infection include frequent hand washing, social distancing (maintaining physical distance from others, especially from those with symptoms), covering coughs and sneezes with a tissue or inner elbow, and keeping unwashed hands away from the face. The use of masks is recommended for those who suspect they have the virus and their caregivers. Recommendations for mask use by the general public vary, with some authorities recommending against their use, some recommending their use, and others requiring their use. Currently, there is no vaccine or specific antiviral treatment for COVID-19. Management involves treatment of symptoms, supportive care, isolation, and experimental measures.

The World Health Organization (WHO) declared the 2019–20 coronavirus outbreak a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC) on 30 January 2020, and a pandemic on 11 March 2020. Local transmission of the disease has been recorded in many countries across all six WHO regions.


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