Learning Center > What is Coronavirus Disease?

What is Coronavirus Disease?

It’s very likely that you’ve heard about the famous Coronavirus pandemic in the news and media but do you really know what it is?

What is Coronavirus (COVID-19)?

Coronaviruses are large groups of viruses that can infect mammals and birds. This type of virus is zoonotic, meaning it’s transmitted between animals and people.

Coronaviruses are believed to cause about 20% of common colds. The novel coronavirus behind the current outbreak is a new, more severe strain known as “COVID-19,” which hasn’t yet been seen in humans

How Did Coronavirus Start?

The outbreak of this new virus and disease began in Wuhan, China in December 2019.

The name coronavirus is derived from the Latin corona, meaning "crown" or "halo", which refers to the characteristic appearance of the virus particles which bear a slight resemblance to a crown or a solar corona.

“Novel coronavirus” refers to the fact that the disease has never been seen before and crossed from infecting animals to humans.

photo of a Corona virus under a microscope

How Long Does the Coronavirus Disease Last?

The duration of coronavirus infection can vary depending on your immune system.

Some won’t notice anything, others may experience mild symptoms that last a few days, and some people will face symptoms for 2 weeks or more.

There is also an incubation and shedding period where you can be contagious for much longer than the time you were symptomatic, so it is best to continue following federal guidelines for as long as they are in place.

Is Coronavirus Contagious?

Yes. And people are thought to be most contagious when they are most symptomatic (the sickest).

3 things to know:

  • Coronavirus is spread just like the common flu: Person to person between people who are within 6 feet of each other.

  • The virus spreads when an infected person coughs or sneezes. These respiratory droplets can then be inhaled into the lungs or land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby.

  • The virus can possibly spread before people show symptoms. But this isn’t thought to be the main way the virus spreads.

Is Coronavirus Deadly?

Yes. At this time: There have been 7,066 fatalities out of 179,223 known cases, which is a 3.9% mortality rate (data as of March 16, 2020).

While that rate is 40 times higher than the common flu at .1%, the actual mortality is likely much lower due to the unreported cases of coronavirus and the lack of testing available in the United States.

Time will tell, but the biggest difference between the flu and coronavirus is how much information we have:

The flu has caused far more illness and fatalities than COVID-19, an estimated 32 million illnesses and 18,000 deaths this season alone, according to the CDC. But we know very little about COVID-19, which plays into the absence of treatment and vaccines. Meanwhile, the flu vaccine was first licensed for use in 1945.

What Are the Coronavirus Signs and Symptoms?

Common signs and symptoms of the COVID-19 infection include fever, cough, and respiratory system issues like shortness of breath or labored breathing.

In more severe cases, infection can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure, and even become fatal.

Simply put:

  • If you are experiencing mild symptoms, stay home.
  • If you want to get tested, call your doctor.
  • If you’re experiencing severe symptoms, seek medical attention immediately.

How Long Does Coronavirus Live on Surfaces?

It’s not yet certain how long the virus survives on surfaces, but it seems to behave like other coronaviruses.

Studies suggest that coronaviruses -- including preliminary information on the COVID-19 virus -- may persist on surfaces for a few hours or several days. This may vary under different conditions such as type of surface, temperature, or humidity of the environment.

To protect yourself and others, follow these steps:

  • Clean all surfaces with a simple disinfectant to kill the virus.

  • Thoroughly wash your hands or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.

  • Avoid touching your eyes, mouth, or nose.

Coronavirus Prevention

Do Antibiotics Treat Coronavirus?

No, antibiotics don’t work against viruses, only bacteria.

There’s promising new research that identifies several antiviral drugs that scientists could repurpose to treat Coronavirus infections like teicoplanin, oritavancin, dalbavancin, monensin, and emetine.

Is There a Coronavirus Vaccine?

There are no vaccines or antiviral drugs to prevent or treat human coronavirus infections (as of March 16, 2020). But there are some vaccines in development that may be FDA approved in 12 months.

Japan has a flu drug called favipiravir - developed by a subsidiary of Fujifilm - which produced efficacy in outcomes in clinical trials in Wuhan and Shenzhen involving 340 patients. The patients who received favipiravir turned negative in a median of 4 days after first being infected, compared with 11 days for those who did not receive the drug.

X-rays also confirmed improved lung conditions in 91% of the patients who received the drug, compared to 62% who did not.

How do I get tested for coronavirus?

It’s important to understand the difference between higher-risk groups of people and those who may not be as impacted by the disease.

High-risk groups include:

  • Older adults (ages 65 and up)
  • People who have serious underlying medical conditions like:
  • Heart disease
  • Diabetes
  • Lung disease

Those under 65 experiencing severe symptoms: Call your doctor if you experience severe symptoms such as:

  • Worsening cough and difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
  • New confusion or inability to arouse
  • Bluish lips or face

Those under 65 who are not experiencing severe symptoms:

It’s very important that those who are not experiencing severe symptoms stay home and follow the CDC’s guidelines.

How do I treat coronavirus?

Treating Coronavirus comes down to several factors like your age and underlying medical conditions. If you’re under 65 and relatively healthy, the best solution is to stay home and treat it like you would any other cold or flu:

1. Hydrate. Fevers and coughing will deplete your body of water much faster than normal so you need to balance that with water and drinks with electrolytes like Pedialyte.

2. Rest. Your body needs all the strength it can to fight off the virus, so avoid physical exertion.

3. Try over-the-counter meds. Dayquil and Nyquil won’t cure you, but they’ll bring relief to your fever and suppress your cough so you can get appropriate rest.

What should I do if I think I have Coronavirus?

If you have mild symptoms like a low fever, cough, or sore throat, than you should isolate yourself and stay at home, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):

  • Don't go to work, school, or public areas, and avoid using public transportation or ride-sharing services.

  • Separate yourself from other people as much as possible: Stay in a specific room, and use a separate bathroom, if one is available.

If you have had Coronavirus and recovered and want to help, the FDA is working on experimental treatments that involve blood transfusions and you can donate blood to them.

What is more deadly: the common flu or Coronavirus?

The biggest difference between the flu and coronavirus is how much information we have.

The flu has caused far more illness and fatalities than COVID-19, an estimated 32 million illnesses and 18,000 deaths this season alone, according to the CDC. But we know very little about COVID-19, which plays into the absence of treatment and vaccines. Meanwhile, the flu vaccine was first licensed for use in 1945.

Can my dog or cat get Coronavirus?

No. There currently is no evidence that pets such as cats and dogs have been infected or could spread the virus that causes COVID-19.

Coronavirus Resources

This article is for information purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. Always seek the advice of a medical professional for questions concerning your health. Do not delay seeking medical attention.

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