What Exactly is the Coronavirus?


It’s all over the news. Everyone on social media is talking about it. There are even conspiracy theories circulating about it already. The top story in the world right now is the coronavirus, and not all of the information is accurate. Infectious diseases that spread the way coronavirus has thus far often cause panic and trigger behaviors in people that aren’t always consistent with the level of risk. To fight panic, you need accurate information. Here’s what the coronavirus is and what’s being done about it.


1. COVID-19 is part of a family of coronaviruses.
The coronavirus we’re dealing with (known as COVID-19) isn’t a singular virus, but rather a member of a family of coronaviruses that have included past pandemics including SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV. They can also cause something as innocent as the common cold.

2. It was transmitted from animals to humans.
COVID-19 is a novel virus, meaning it’s being seen in humans for the first time. Before it was transmitted, it affected animals only. We’re not sure which animal it originated from, and it’s not that easy to figure out. Past coronaviruses have been traced to civets and dromedary camels.


3. The symptoms are very similar to the flu.
COVID-19 causes respiratory symptoms including coughing, shortness of breath, and fever. It can also lead to pneumonia. If you’re familiar with the flu, you’ll recognize that these are all symptoms that can be experienced from influenza as well. However, the coronavirus does spread much more enthusiastically than the flu, which explains part of the panic.