What is Coronavirus (COVID-19)?

Watch Dr. Ajay Kumar on Facebook as he talks about COVID-19.

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The coronavirus (severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2)), the respiratory illness first detected in Wuhan, the capital city of Hubei Province in central China, has been identified as "coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19)". Scientists are still trying to determine its origins. Early reports pointed to a possible animal-to-person transmission, perhaps from a market that sold seafood and live animals. The Chinese government closed the market Jan. 1, 2020.

Coronavirus is a large collection of viruses that can cause something as mild as the common cold but is better known in recent years for outbreaks of two far more serious diseases, Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). Under an electron microscope, the virus looks like the sun’s corona — the outer part of the sun’s atmosphere - that's where coronavirus gets it's name.

The 2003 SARS epidemic in China, believed to have started with small mammals, infected more than 8,000 people and resulted in 774 deaths. SARS symptoms resemble the flu, with fever, sore throat, breathing difficulties, body aches and diarrhea. No SARS cases have been reported since 2004.

But MERS, a new coronavirus, emerged in Saudi Arabia in 2012 with symptoms similar to SARS. It has since spread to other countries, including the United States. This disease is characterized by fever, cough and shortness of breath.

Common symptoms of COVID-19, according to the CDC, include fever, cough and shortness of breath. Some people have shown no symptoms. But the virus can cause serious illness and even death. People with weaker immune systems, such as older adults and young children, are at greater risk.

Vaccines are available to everyone age 5 years and older.

Vaccine booster shots are available to everyone 12 years and older.

View frequently asked questions regarding coronavirus/COVID-19.

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