Coronavirus (COVID-19) Overview

COVID-19: 'CO' stands for ' corona,' 'VI' for 'virus', and 'D' for disease. '19' refers to the year '2019' in which it was first identified. The disease was formerly referred to as “2019 novel coronavirus” or “2019-nCoV”.

There are numerous types of human coronaviruses including some that commonly cause mild upper- respiratory tract illnesses. COVID-19, however, is a highly infectious disease caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). The disease first identified in Wuhan, China and it has spread globally resulting in a declaration as a pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO). The mortality rate per number of diagnosed cases averages 4.5% (as of March 25, 2020), but ranges vary from 0.2 percent to 15 percent depending upon age groups and individuals with existing health problems.


Common symptoms of COVID-19 include:

  • Low-grade and high-grade fever
  • Dry or wet cough
  • Shortness of breath

Less common symptoms:

  • Muscle aches and pains
  • Sputum production
  • Diarrhea
  • Sore throat

A complete or partial loss of smell and sense of taste are also common symptoms in cases with no other symptoms presenting.

A majority of cases result in mild symptoms. However, symptoms can progress to pneumonia and multiple-organ failure.


COVID-19 is usually spread through close contact and via respiratory droplets that are produced as individuals cough and sneeze. These respiratory droplets may also be produced during breathing, but at present (March 25, 2020) the disease is not thought to be airborne. The disease is also spread when individuals touch contaminated surfaces and subsequently then touch their face. The virus has been demonstrated to live on various surfaces for as long as 72 hours.

COVID-19 is most contagious when individuals are exhibiting symptoms. Spread has also been shown to occur before symptoms appear. Some individuals may spread the disease without showing symptoms (asymptomatic). The time from exposure to the onset of symptoms is typically between two (2) and fourteen (14) days, with an average of five (5) days.

Testing & Methods of Diagnosis

  • Reverse Transcription Polymerase Chain Reaction (rRT-PCR) resulting from a nasopharyngeal swab.
  • Combination of presenting symptoms, risk factors and chest CT scan demonstrating pneumonia.
  • Serological (blood sample) test which looks for specific antibodies that are produced by the body to fight the virus.

A blood-sample test has some advantages because it is able to detect antibodies even after an individual has recovered, whereas the PCR test is only able to detect the virus in persons who are presently sick with the disease.

Treatment & Disease Management

There are no treatments that are specifically approved at present for COVID-19. Instead, cases where the disease is present are managed with supportive care. This may include oral and intravenous fluids, oxygen support through ventilators and respirators, and other support to vital organs. Steroids such as methylprednisolone are not recommended unless the disease is complicated by acute respiratory distress.

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