What is Coronavirus or COVID-19

Coronavirus or COVID-19 is a highly infectious disease that has spread rapidly across the majority countries of the world,

after the first case was reported in December 2019.

What is Coronavirus?

  • Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses t 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). 
  • Coronaviruses are zoonotic, which means that they are transmitted between animals and people. Detailed investigations found that SARS-CoV was transmitted from civet cats to humans and MERS-CoV from dromedary camels to humans. 
  • Several known coronaviruses are circulating in animals that have not yet infected humans.
  • The most recently discovered coronavirus causes coronavirus disease, COVID-19

What is COVID-19?

  • COVID-19 is an infectious disease caused by the most recently discovered coronavirus. The novel coronavirus (nCoV) is a new strain that has not been previously identified in humans.
  • This new virus and disease were unknown before the outbreak began in Wuhan, China, in December 2019.
  • It has progressed rapidly across the globe, infecting millions and killing thousands. Over 216 countries have been affected by COVID-19, and as of mid-August 2020, there are more than 23 million cases and 800,000+ deaths across the world. 

What was the name given to this disease?

  • The illness caused by this disease was termed COVID-19 by the World Health Organisation (WHO), which is an acronym derived from “coronavirus disease 2019” before the final official name was announced – SARS-CoV-2. 
  • The name was chosen to avoid stigmatizing the virus’s origins in terms of populations, geography, or animal associations. 
  • On 11th February 2020, the Coronavirus Study Group of the International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses issued a statement announcing an official designation for the novel virus as severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2)

How has COVID-19 progressed?

  • The disease was initially reported to the WHO on December 31, 2019. 
  • On January 30, 2020, the WHO declared the COVID-19 outbreak a global health emergency
  • On March 11, 2020, the WHO declared COVID-19 a global pandemic, its first such designation since declaring H1N1 influenza a pandemic in 2009.
  • The outbreak of the disease was first reported in China, post which it rapidly spread in weeks across the globe. European countries like Italy, Spain, the UK were amongst the worst hit initially before the number of cases also increased manifold times in other countries. Currently, the USA, Brazil, and India have the most number of positive cases of COVID-19.


Since this is a new virus that had not infected human beings earlier, there were no readily available medications or vaccines. It was difficult to stop the disease from spreading as it is highly contagious. It has caused immense pressure on the medical hospitals, equipment and facilities, and frontline workers like doctors, nurses, essential workers, and support staff while the research and development of a remedy are ongoing. 

Special thanks to Dr. Saswati Sanyal Choudhury(MD FICOG FICMCH) for expert advice.

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