What is COVID-19?

By Monet Davis and Lorin Jackson

From PHN Issue 42, Spring 2020

All information adapted from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at CDC.gov and the World Health Organization at who.int.

Defining COVID-19

The coronavirus disease 2019 is a disease caused by a virus that was discovered in the Wuhan province of China in February 2019. It is abbreviated as COVID-19 and often referred to as the “coronavirus,” “corona,” or “the ‘rona.” In COVID-19, the ‘CO’ stands for ‘corona,’ ‘VI’ for ‘virus,’ and ‘D’ for disease. The 19 is for the year 2019.


The cause of the virus is called SARS-CoV-2. SARS-CoV-2 belongs to a family of viruses called coronaviruses, which are common in people and different animal species. The virus that causes COVID-19 is thought to spread mainly between people, when an infected person coughs or sneezes and an uninfected person breathes in the droplets that remain in the air. People can also be infected by touching surfaces, such as door knobs and handles, that have been exposed to the virus and then touching their eyes, mouth, or nose. Risk of spread increases when people are physically close to each other (within 6 feet). Many state and local governments have issued stay-at-home orders and encouraged everyone to practice physical distancing, or reducing physical contact with others and maintaining a distance of at least 6 feet. Health organizations are encouraging people to regularly wash their hands and disinfect surfaces.

Symptoms and Treatment

Information about COVID-19 is constantly changing as we learn more. The most common symptom of COVID-19 is fever. People with COVID-19 have reported symptoms of mild to severe trouble breathing, cough, sore throat, shortness of breath, and unexplained loss of taste or smell. Some patients also experience gastrointestinal symptoms such as diarrhea and nausea. There is currently no vaccine to prevent COVID-19. Avoiding exposure is the best way to prevent catching the virus. Some people with COVID-19 do not show any symptoms, and can still spread the virus to other people. Those who catch COVID-19 can usually recover from the virus by properly treating symptoms with cold/flu medications, fluids, and rest. If your symptoms include a cough, fever, and/or difficulty breathing, seek medical advice. The earlier the virus is treated, the better.

Mythbusting COVID-19

5G mobile networks did not create COVID-19, and these networks cannot spread the virus. People of all ages can be infected by the coronavirus. Older people and those with pre-existing medical conditions are more vulnerable than others. People of any ethnic background can contract the virus, and the virus should not be referred to as the “Chinese” virus; this is a global pandemic.

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