The following is a list of facts about the COVID-19 pandemic based on information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO).
This information includes the definitions of different types of coronaviruses, how the COVID-19 pandemic compares with other pandemics and virus outbreaks in the 20th and 21st centuries and safety guidelines as recommended by the CDC.
Facts about coronaviruses:
Coronavirus: A large family of viruses that are common in people and many different species of animals, including camels, cattle, cats and bats. Rarely, animal coronaviruses can infect people and then spread between people.
SARS-CoV-2: The coronavirus which causes COVID-19
Source of the virus: SARS-CoV-2 virus is a betacoronavirus, like MERS-CoV and SARS-CoV. All three of these viruses have their possible origins in bats. The sequences from U.S. patients are similar to the one China initially posted, suggesting a likely single, recent emergence of this virus from an animal reservoir.
SARS: Severe acute respiratory syndrome is a viral respiratory illness caused by the coronavirus called SARS-associated coronavirus (SARS-CoV). It was first reported in Asia in 2003 and spread to more than two dozen countries before being contained by 2004.
Source of the virus: SARS-CoV is thought to be an animal virus from an as-yet-uncertain animal reservoir, perhaps bats, that spread to other animals, like civet cats, and first infected humans in the Guangdong province of southern China in 2002.
MERS: Middle East respiratory syndrome is an illness caused by the coronavirus (MERS-CoV). About three or four out of every 10 patients reported with MERS have died. Only two patients in the U.S. tested positive for the virus in 2014, and both were discharged after fully recovering.
Source of the virus: MERS-CoV likely came from an animal source in the Arabian Peninsula. Researchers have found MERS-CoV in camels from several countries. Studies have shown direct contact with camels is a risk factor for human infection with MERS-CoV, but more information is needed to understand the interactions between humans and camels that are important for transmission.
The following symptoms may appear two to 14 days after exposure:
- Shortness of breath
If you develop the following emergency warning signs, get medical attention immediately:
- Trouble breathing
- Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
- New confusion or inability to arouse
- Bluish lips or face
Steps to protect yourself:
- Clean your hands often
- Avoid close contact
- Cover your mouth and nose with a cloth face cover when around others
- Cover coughs and sneezes
- Clean and disinfect high-touch surfaces
Five tips about facemasks:
People can spread COVID-19 to others even if they are not feeling sick. CDC recommends the following tips when it comes to facemasks.
- Everyone should wear a cloth face cover when they have to go out in public, for example, to the grocery store or to pick up other necessities.
- Cloth face coverings should not be placed on young children under age 2, anyone who has trouble breathing or is unconscious, incapacitated or unable to remove the mask without assistance.
- The cloth face cover is meant to protect other people in case you are infected.
- Do not use a facemask meant for a healthcare worker.
- The cloth face cover is not a substitute for social distancing. Continue to maintain about 6 feet between yourself and others.
Running Errands during COVID-19:
Apart from practicing social distancing guidelines, wearing facemasks, cleaning your hands with hand sanitizer and washing your hands with soap and water, here are some additional guidelines when it comes to performing everyday essential tasks.
Shopping for essentials:
- Stay home if sick.
- Order online, or use curbside pickup.
- Go during hours when fewer people will be there.
- Find out if the store has special hours for people at higher risk.
- Disinfect the shopping cart, using disinfecting wipes if available.
- Do not touch your eyes, nose or mouth.
- If possible, use touchless payment.
Deliveries and take-home orders:
- Pay online when you order, if possible.
- Accept deliveries without in-person contact whenever possible.
- Bank online whenever possible.
- Use drive-through ATMs if available.
- Before using, clean the ATM keyboard with a disinfecting wipe.
- Use gloves or disinfecting wipes on handles or buttons before you touch them.
- Talk to your doctor by phone, email or online.
- If you must visit in person, protect yourself and others by practicing social distancing and cleanliness guidelines.
- Plan to order and pick up all your prescriptions at the same time.
- Call prescription orders in ahead of time.
- Use drive-thru windows, curbside services, mail-order or other delivery services.
- Check with your doctor and pharmacist to see if you can get a larger supply of your medicines.
COVID-19 and food:
Based on information about this novel coronavirus thus far, it seems unlikely COVID-19 can be transmitted through food. However, additional investigation is needed.
While it may be possible a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object, like a packaging container, that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose or possibly eyes, this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads.
Nevertheless, CDC recommends washing your hands before preparing or eating food among other general guidelines to protect oneself.
COVID-19 and warm weather:
It is not yet known if weather and temperature affect the spread of COVID-19. Some other viruses, like those that cause the common cold and flu, spread more during cold weather months, but that does not mean it is impossible to become sick with these viruses during other months.
Generally, coronaviruses survive for shorter periods at higher temperatures and higher humidity than in cooler or drier environments. However, there’s currently no direct data for this virus or for a temperature-based cutoff for inactivation.
COVID-19 and animals:
- Coronaviruses that infect animals can sometimes, but rarely, be spread to people.
- The first infections were linked to a live animal market, but the virus is now primarily spreading from person to person.
- The first case of an animal testing positive for the virus in the United States was a tiger that had a respiratory illness at a zoo in New York City.
- Currently, there’s no evidence companion animals, including pets, can spread COVID-19 to people or they might be a source of infection in the United States.
- CDC is aware of a very small number of pets outside the United States reported to be infected with the virus that causes COVID-19 after close contact with infected people.
- Currently, there’s no evidence to suggest imported animals or animal products pose a risk for spreading COVID-19 in the United States.
- Currently, there’s no data to suggest this new coronavirus or other similar coronaviruses are spread by mosquitoes or ticks.
- Further studies are needed to understand if and how different animals could be affected by COVID-19.