What is COVID-19?

COVID-19 is an infection caused by a new coronavirus. Coronaviruses are a group of viruses that can cause a range of symptoms. Some usually cause mild illness. Some, like this one, can also cause more severe symptoms. 

You may also know COVID-19 as:

  • 2019 novel coronavirus,
  • 2019-nCoV, or
  • Coronavirus.

Coronaviruses can transfer from animals to humans although this is not common. Those who study COVID-19 think that the virus that causes it originated in bats. Two earlier coronavirus outbreaks appear to have started from viruses in a host animal. For SARS, it was the masked palm civet. For MERS, it was dromedary camels.

COVID-19 is spread when people touch or breathe in droplets made when ill people cough, sneeze or talk. This can happen when someone is close to a sick person, within six feet. Rarely, people might catch COVID-19 by touching a surface that a person with the infection coughed or sneezed on, and then touching their own mouth, nose or eyes.