What is the “COVID-19 coronavirus?”

Photo: Houston Chronicle

The term “coronavirus” refers to a common family of viruses.  According to the CDC, most people get infected with a coronavirus at some point in their lives. 

The recent outbreak of coronavirus was first detected in Central China in December 2019. The World Health Organization (WHO) has given this coronavirus the name, “COVID-19 coronavirus,” although many in the news media are simply referring to the virus as “coronavirus.”

The virus has been declared a global pandemic by the WHO, and many governments around the globe are ordering mandatory quarantines and travel restrictions.

How is the COVID-19 coronavirus spread?

While the COVID-19 coronavirus is not the same as the flu virus, the viruses share similarities regarding how they affect people and how they are spread.

According to the CDC, coronaviruses are most commonly spread from an infected person to others through the air by coughing and sneezing; close personal contact such as touching or shaking hands; or touching an object or surface with the virus on it and then touching your mouth, nose, or eyes before washing your hands.

Where is the COVID-19 coronavirus spreading, and is it deadly?

As of March 16, 2020, of the 174 thousand known cases of coronavirus worldwide, about 7,281 people have died, including 68 people in the United States.  By comparison, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), about 4 million people worldwide contract the seasonal flu, resulting in about 400,000 deaths. 

And similar to the seasonal flu, people who have died from the COVID-19 coronavirus were already in poor health when they contracted the virus. However, COVID-19 is serious, and the more lethal than the seasonal flu.

The CDC, WHO, and pharmaceutical companies are currently researching the possibility of creating a COVID-19 vaccine, but there is no vaccine available yet.

How has travel been affected by COVID-19 coronavirus?

Global and domestic travel has been greatly affected by COVID-19.  U.S. government agencies are recommending U.S. residents avoid travel to these countries.  Notably, the U.S. government announced a ban on inbound travel to the United States from Europe.

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