Coronaviruses (Latin. Corona = “wreath, crown”, from characteristic club-shaped spikes that project from their surface) are a large family of viruses which may cause illness in animals or humans. In humans, several coronaviruses are known to cause respiratory infections ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).
The most recently discovered coronavirus causes the coronavirus disease, COVID-19, an illness that can affect your lungs and airways. The COVID-19 virus spreads primarily through droplets of saliva (spit) or discharge from the nose when an infected person speaks, coughs or sneezes.
Most people infected with the COVID-19 virus will experience mild to moderate respiratory illness and recover without requiring special treatment. The most common symptoms of COVID-19 are fever, dry cough, and tiredness. Some patients may have aches and pains, nasal congestion, sore throat or diarrhea. These symptoms are usually mild and begin gradually. Some people become infected but only have very mild symptoms.
- Most people (about 80%) recover from the disease without needing hospital treatment.
- Around 1 out of every 5 people who gets COVID-19 becomes seriously ill and develops difficulty breathing.
- Older people, and those with underlying medical problems like high blood pressure, heart and lung problems, diabetes, or cancer, are at higher risk of developing serious illness.
However, anyone can catch COVID-19 and become seriously ill. Even people with very mild symptoms of COVID-19 can transmit the virus. People of all ages who experience fever, cough and difficulty breathing should seek immediate medical attention.
As with other respiratory infections like the flu or the common cold, public health measures are critical to slow the spread of illnesses. Public health measures are everyday preventive actions that include:
- Staying home when sick
- Wear a mask to protect yourself and others
- Covering mouth and nose with flexed elbow or tissue when coughing or sneezing. Dispose of used tissue immediately
- Washing hands often with soap and water
- Cleaning frequently touched surfaces and objects.
- Maintain a distance of at least 1 metre (3 feet) from others.
To date, there is no vaccine and no specific antiviral medicines against COVID-19. Mild symptoms can usually be treated at home. If your symptoms are severe, medical care may be needed until you recover. However, people with serious illness may need to be hospitalized so that they can receive life-saving treatment for complications. Most patients recover thanks to such care.
Possible vaccines and some specific drug treatments are currently being explored. They are being tested through clinical trials in many countries, and global organizations, such as the WHO, are coordinating efforts to develop vaccines and medicines to prevent and treat COVID-19.