What is COVID -19?

A new and novel virus called SARS-CoV-2 that can cause a severe respiratory illness (called COVID-19) emerged in the city of Wuhan, China at the end of December 2019 and subsequently spread quickly around the world to create a global pandemic This virus is a member of the coronavirus family that includes the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome virus (SARS) and the Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) virus as well as others that can cause the common cold. The new virus causes an illness that affects multiple organs, including the lungs, heart, brain, blood vessels, kidneys and others. In a matter of months, this virus caused a major epidemic of respiratory illness in the city of Wuhan and the province of Hubei with spread to all the other provinces of China. Almost simultaneously, international travellers carried this virus to many other countries creating minor and major epidemics around the world.

The situation is still fluid and evolving at this time (September 2020) with some countries achieving control of transmission (e.g., New Zealand) while others are experiencing sudden surges in cases after the relaxation of public health measures.

How do you get COVID -19?

The coronavirus that causes COVID-19 is spread by respiratory droplets and aerosols that are generated when an infected person laughs, shouts, coughs or sneezes. These microscopic droplets that contain the virus are then inhaled into the respiratory tract of the close contact. The virus can also be transferred by hands touching the eyes, nose and mouth when contaminated with secretions from an ill person.

Depending on the type of surface, temperature, and humidity the virus may persist of various surfaces for days. However, it is not clear how infectious virus particles on surfaces may be.

Susceptibility and Resistance

All persons are susceptible.

Incubation Period

The incubation period for COVID -19 is 3-14 days.

What are the Symptoms?

A majority of the infected people develop mild symptoms of respiratory illness, e.g., slight fever and cough. Some infected persons have no symptoms. About 15 per cent of the infected people develop serious illness, with a high fever, dry cough and shortness of breath (indicative of pneumonia). A smaller number, around 5 per cent, require critical care and approximately 1 per cent will die, although the actual mortality rate remains to be defined.

Preventative Measures

There is no vaccine to date. The best preventive measures involve following respiratory precautions, specifically: 1) Avoid close contact with people suffering from acute respiratory infections; 2) Wash hands frequently, especially after direct contact with ill people or their environment; use soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available; 3) Travellers with symptoms of acute respiratory infection should practice cough etiquette (maintain distance, cover coughs and sneezes with disposable tissues or clothing, and wash hands). 4) Avoid travelling to areas where this virus is actively transmitted; 5) Seek medical attention immediately if symptoms develop after visiting affected areas where transmission is occurring.

In general, public health authorities in nearly all countries require maintaining a 2 meter (approximately 6 feet) distance from others and wearing face-covering (mask) whenever in public places. Many countries limit the size of gatherings to reduce the number of contacts between people.


There is no specific treatment for COVID-19. Critically ill patients are provided with supportive treatment to facilitate their breathing until recovery.

Where Does It Commonly Occur?

So far (September 2020), this virus has spread from China to nearly every country in the world.

Outbreaks of this disease are well established in many countries. New surges in the number of infected persons are beginning in all the major countries that relaxed their public health measures.