The answers to your most-asked questions about the coronavirus outbreak 2020



How did the coronavirus start?
What is the coronavirus?
How many cases of coronavirus in the US?
How many people have died from coronavirus?
How to treat coronavirus
How to prevent coronavirus
How to prepare for coronavirus

How did the coronavirus start?

Coronaviruses were first discovered in the late 1960s. The earliest ones discovered were an infectious bronchitis virus in chickens and two in human patients with the common cold (later named human coronavirus 229E and human coronavirus OC43). Other members of this family have since been identified, including SARS-CoV in 2003, HCoV NL63 in 2004, HKU1 in 2005, MERS-CoV in 2012, and SARS-CoV-2 (formerly known as 2019-nCoV) in 2019. Most of these have involved serious respiratory tract infections.

Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is a new strain that was discovered in 2019 and has not been previously identified in humans.

What is the coronavirus?

Coronaviruses (CoV) are a large family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV).

What is COVID-19?
COVID-19 is the infectious disease caused by the most recently discovered coronavirus. This new virus and disease were unknown before the outbreak began in Wuhan, China, in December 2019.

What are the symptoms of COVID-19?
The most common symptoms of COVID-19 are fever, tiredness, and dry cough. Some patients may have aches and pains, nasal congestion, runny nose, sore throat or diarrhea. These symptoms are usually mild and begin gradually. Some people become infected but don’t develop any symptoms and don't feel unwell. Most people (about 80%) recover from the disease without needing special treatment. Around 1 out of every 6 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 problems or diabetes, are more likely to develop serious illness. People with fever, cough and difficulty breathing should seek medical attention.

How does COVID-19 spread?
People can catch COVID-19 from others who have the virus. The disease can spread from person to person through small droplets from the nose or mouth which are spread when a person with COVID-19 coughs or exhales. These droplets land on objects and surfaces around the person. Other people then catch COVID-19 by touching these objects or surfaces, then touching their eyes, nose or mouth. People can also catch COVID-19 if they breathe in droplets from a person with COVID-19 who coughs out or exhales droplets. This is why it is important to stay more than 1 meter (3 feet) away from a person who is sick.

WHO is assessing ongoing research on the ways COVID-19 is spread and will continue to share updated findings. 

How to treat coronavirus & How to prevent coronavirus?

Protection measures for everyone
Stay aware of the latest information on the COVID-19 outbreak, available on the WHO website and through your national and local public health authority. Many countries around the world have seen cases of COVID-19 and several have seen outbreaks. Authorities in China and some other countries have succeeded in slowing or stopping their outbreaks. However, the situation is unpredictable so check regularly for the latest news.

You can reduce your chances of being infected or spreading COVID-19 by taking some simple precautions:

  • Regularly and thoroughly clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand rub or wash them with soap and water.
  • Why? Washing your hands with soap and water or using alcohol-based hand rub kills viruses that may be on your hands.
  • Maintain at least 1 metre (3 feet) distance between yourself and anyone who is coughing or sneezing.
  • Why? When someone coughs or sneezes they spray small liquid droplets from their nose or mouth which may contain virus. If you are too close, you can breathe in the droplets, including the COVID-19 virus if the person coughing has the disease.
  • Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth.
  • Why? Hands touch many surfaces and can pick up viruses. Once contaminated, hands can transfer the virus to your eyes, nose or mouth. From there, the virus can enter your body and can make you sick.
  • Make sure you, and the people around you, follow good respiratory hygiene. This means covering your mouth and nose with your bent elbow or tissue when you cough or sneeze. Then dispose of the used tissue immediately.
  • Why? Droplets spread virus. By following good respiratory hygiene you protect the people around you from viruses such as cold, flu and COVID-19.
  • Stay home if you feel unwell. If you have a fever, cough and difficulty breathing, seek medical attention and call in advance. Follow the directions of your local health authority.
  • Why? National and local authorities will have the most up to date information on the situation in your area. Calling in advance will allow your health care provider to quickly direct you to the right health facility. This will also protect you and help prevent spread of viruses and other infections.
  • Keep up to date on the latest COVID-19 hotspots (cities or local areas where COVID-19 is spreading widely). If possible, avoid traveling to places  – especially if you are an older person or have diabetes, heart or lung disease.
Why? You have a higher chance of catching COVID-19 in one of these areas.

Protection measures for persons who are in or have recently visited (past 14 days) areas where COVID-19 is spreading

  • Follow the guidance outlined above (Protection measures for everyone)
  • Self-isolate by staying at home if you begin to feel unwell, even with mild symptoms such as headache, low grade fever (37.3 C or above) and slight runny nose, until you recover. If it is essential for you to have someone bring you supplies or to go out, e.g. to buy food, then wear a mask to avoid infecting other people.
Why? Avoiding contact with others and visits to medical facilities will allow these facilities to operate more effectively and help protect you and others from possible COVID-19 and other viruses.
  • If you develop fever, cough and difficulty breathing, seek medical advice promptly as this may be due to a respiratory infection or other serious condition. Call in advance and tell your provider of any recent travel or contact with travelers.
Why? Calling in advance will allow your health care provider to quickly direct you to the right health facility. This will also help to prevent possible spread of COVID-19 and other viruses.

How many cases of coronavirus in the US?

COVID-19: U.S. at a Glance*
  • Total cases: 7,038
  • Total deaths: 97
  • Jurisdictions reporting cases: 54 (50 states, District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam, and US Virgin Islands)
* Data include both confirmed and presumptive positive cases of COVID-19 reported to CDC or tested at CDC since January 21, 2020, with the exception of testing results for persons repatriated to the United States from Wuhan, China and Japan. State and local public health departments are now testing and publicly reporting their cases. In the event of a discrepancy between CDC cases and cases reported by state and local public health officials, data reported by states should be considered the most up to date.

How many people have died from coronavirus?

Coronavirus live updates: More than 227,000 people have been infected and more than 9,300 have died. The US has reported 158 deaths. Here's everything we know.

How to prepare for coronavirus?

Here is what you can do to prepare your family in case COVID-19 spreads in your community.

  • Stay home if you can.
  • Wash your hands. With soap. Then wash them again.
  • Stay informed.
  • With children, keep calm, carry on and get the flu shot.
  • Don’t stockpile masks.
  • But do stock up on groceries, medicine and resources.

Find Local Information
  • Know where to find local information on COVID-19 and local trends of COVID-19 cases.
Know the Signs & Symptoms
  • Know the signs and symptoms of COVID-19 and what to do if symptomatic:
Stay home when you are sick
  • Call your health care provider’s office in advance of a visit
  • Limit movement in the community
  • Limit visitors
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  • Take Steps for Those at Higher Risk
  • Know what additional measures those at higher risk and who are vulnerable should take.
Protect Yourself & Family
  • Implement steps to prevent illness (e.g., stay home when sick, handwashing, respiratory etiquette, clean frequently touched surfaces daily).
Create a Household Plan
  • Create a household plan of action in case of illness in the household or disruption of daily activities due to COVID-19 in the community.
  • Consider 2-week supply of prescription and over the counter medications, food and other essentials. Know how to get food delivered if possible.
  • Establish ways to communicate with others (e.g., family, friends, co-workers).
  • Establish plans to telework, what to do about childcare needs, how to adapt to cancellation of events.
Stay Informed About Emergency Plans
  • Know about emergency operations plans for schools/workplaces of household members


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