Corona viruses are a large group of viruses many of which cause no or minor illnesses, like the common cold. Some cause illness in people, and others only infect animals. Usually these infections do not cross over from animals to people.
On rare occasions, coronaviruses that infect animals “change” and develop the ability to infect people. This has occurred with Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) where the causative viruses were probably initially infections of bats. The new (novel) corona virus was probably also an infection of bats but is now able to infect people.
The new (novel) corona virus is officially called Coronavirus Disease-2019 or COVID-19 (because it was first detected in 2019).
COVID-19 was first detected in Wuhan City, Hubei Province, China, linked to a live animal market. This virus is now able to infect humans and can spread from person to person:
People are thought to be most contagious when they have symptoms and are sick. There is also evidence that spread might be possible when people are infected but before they become sick, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads.
The symptoms may appear from 2−14 days (incubation period) after contact with an infected person and may range from mild to severe illness.
There is currently no vaccine to prevent COVID-19 infection. The only way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to the virus. Everyday preventive actions include:
These precautions also apply to people travelling to other parts of their own country, or other countries.
Only wear a mask if you have symptoms of COVID-19 infection (coughing or sneezing) or are looking after someone who may have COVID-19, to help prevent the spread of the disease to others.
Disposable face masks can only be used once.
Remove the mask from behind (do not touch the front of mask) and discard it immediately in a closed bin. Remember to wash your hands with an alcohol-based sanitizer or soap and water.