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Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is an infectious disease caused by a newly discovered coronavirus. Most people infected with the COVID-19 virus will experience mild to moderate respiratory illness and recover without requiring special treatment.  Older people, and those with underlying medical problems like cardiovascular disease, diabetes, chronic respiratory disease, and cancer are more likely to develop serious illness. The best way to prevent and slow down transmission is be well informed about the COVID-19 virus, the disease it causes and how it spreads. Protect yourself and others from infection by washing your hands or using an alcohol based rub frequently and not touching your face. The COVID-19 virus spreads primarily through droplets of saliva or discharge from the nose when an infected person coughs or sneezes, so it’s important that you also practice respiratory etiquette (for example, by coughing into a flexed elbow).

At this time, there are no specific vaccines or treatments for COVID-19. However, there are many ongoing clinical trials evaluating potential treatments. Coronaviruses are a group of viruses that usually cause mild illnesses, such as the common cold. However, certain types of coronavirus can infect the lower airway, causing serious illnesses like pneumonia or bronchitis. Most people get infected with coronaviruses at some point in their lives and the majority of these infections are harmless. The new coronavirus that causes the covid-19 illness is a notable exception. Coronaviruses have extraordinarily large single-stranded RNA genomes – approximately 26,000 to 32,000 bases or RNA “letters” in length. Coronavirus particles are surrounded by a fatty outer layer called an envelope and usually appear spherical, as seen under an electron microscope, with a crown or “corona” of club-shaped spikes on their surface. The virus that causes covid-19 is known as SARS-CoV-2.

It appears to have first emerged in Wuhan, China, in late 2019. The outbreak has since spread across China to other countries around the world. By the end of January, the new coronavirus had been declared a public health emergency of international concern by the WHO. The most commonly reported symptoms include a fever, dry cough and tiredness, and in mild cases people may get just a runny nose or a sore throat. In the most severe cases, people with the virus can develop difficulty breathing, and may ultimately experience organ failure. Some cases are fatal. Coronaviruses replicate their RNA genomes using enzymes called RNA-dependent RNA polymerases, which are prone to errors, but genomic analysis so far suggests that covid-19 is mutating slowly, reducing the chance of it changing to become more deadly.