Coronavirus Disease 2019 Also called COVID-19

What Is COVID-19?

COVID-19 is an illness that infects the lungs. It is caused by a new coronavirus that started in China in late 2019 and has quickly spread worldwide.

Although it’s part of the same family of viruses that cause the common cold, the virus that causes COVID-19 is very different. Because it had never been seen in humans before, no one had existing immunity to it (that is, an ability to naturally fight it). 

Unlike the flu, there is no vaccine yet to protect us. While researchers are racing to develop one, it likely won't be ready for a while. 

We are learning more about the virus every day. For starters, we don’t yet know: 

  • What the long-term health effects might be
  • How long someone can give the virus to others 
  • If a person who has had the virus can get it again
  • Whether it will stick around in warmer weather or come back in the months and years ahead (seasonal influenza tends to drop off during the spring and summer, but many coronaviruses persist year-round)
  • Why some people get very ill, while others don’t have obvious signs of having it 

Last updated: May 6, 2020

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