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Coronavirus

Coronavirus - SARS; Coronavirus - 2019-nCoV; Coronavirus - COVID-19; Coronavirus - Severe acute respiratory syndrome; Coronavirus - Middle East respiratory syndrome; Coronavirus - MERS

Coronaviruses are a family of viruses. Infection with these viruses can cause mild to moderate respiratory illnesses, such as the common cold. Some coronaviruses cause severe illness that can lead to pneumonia, and even death.

Causes

There are many different coronaviruses. They affect both humans and animals. Common human coronaviruses cause mild to moderate illnesses, such as the common cold.

Some animal coronaviruses evolve (mutate) and are passed from animals to humans. They may then spread through person-to-person contact. The coronaviruses that spread from animals to humans can sometimes cause more severe illness:

  • Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) is a serious form of pneumonia. It is caused by the SARS-CoV coronavirus. No cases in humans have been reported since 2004.
  • Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) is a severe respiratory illness. MERS is caused by the MERS-CoV coronavirus. About 30% of people who have gotten this illness have died. Some people only have mild symptoms. MERS continues to cause illness in humans, mainly in the Arabian Peninsula.
  • COVID-19 -- Information about COVID-19 is available from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Many coronaviruses originate in bats, which can infect other animals. SARS-CoV spread from civet cats, while MERS-CoV spread from camels. The latest SARS-CoV-2 is also suspected to originate from animals. It is from the same family of viruses as SARS-CoV, which is why they have similar names. There are many other coronaviruses circulating in animals, but they haven't spread to humans.

Once a person has been infected by a coronavirus, the infection can spread to a healthy person (person-to-person transmission). You can catch coronavirus infection when:

  • An infected person sneezes, coughs, or blows their nose near you and releases the virus into the air (droplet infection)
  • You touch your nose, eyes, or mouth after you have touched something contaminated by the virus, such as a toy or doorknob
  • You touch, hug, shake hands with, or kiss an infected person
  • You eat or drink from the same utensils the infected person is using

Symptoms

Human coronaviruses that cause the common cold spread from person-to-person. Symptoms develop in 2 to 14 days. These include:

  • Runny nose
  • Sore throat
  • Sneezing
  • Nasal congestion
  • Fever with chills
  • Headache
  • Body aches
  • Cough

Exposure to MERS-CoV, SARS-CoV, and SARS-CoV-2 can cause severe symptoms. These include:

Severe coronavirus infection may cause:

Symptoms may be severe in certain people:

  • Children
  • Older adults
  • People with chronic conditions such as diabetes, cancer, chronic kidney disease, heart diseases
  • People with respiratory illnesses such as asthma or COPD

Exams and Tests

Your health care provider may take a sample of the following for laboratory testing:

  • Sputum culture
  • Nasal swab (from the nostrils)
  • Throat swab
  • Blood tests

Stool and urine samples may also be taken in some cases.

You may need further testing if your infection is due to a severe form of coronavirus. These tests may include:

Diagnostic tests may not be available for all kinds of coronavirus.

Treatment

To date there is no specific treatment for coronavirus infection. Medicines are given only to ease your symptoms. Experimental treatments are sometimes used in severe cases.

Mild coronavirus infections, such as the common cold, will go away in a few days with rest and self care at home.

If you are suspected to have a severe coronavirus infection, you may:

  • Have to wear a surgical mask
  • Stay in an isolated room or ICU for treatment

Treatment for severe infections may include:

  • Antibiotics, if you also have bacterial pneumonia
  • Antiviral medicines
  • Steroids
  • Oxygen, breathing support (mechanical ventilation), or chest therapy

Outlook (Prognosis)

Common colds due to coronavirus usually resolve on their own. Severe coronavirus infections may require hospitalization and breathing support. Rarely, certain severe coronavirus infections may lead to death, especially in older people, children, or people with chronic conditions.

Possible Complications

Coronavirus infections may lead to bronchitis or pneumonia. Some severe forms may cause organ failure, and even death.

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Contact your provider if you have:

  • Come in contact with a person with a severe coronavirus infection
  • Travelled to a place which had an outbreak of a coronavirus infection and have developed common cold symptoms, shortness of breath, nausea, or diarrhea

Prevention

There is no vaccine available to prevent a coronavirus infection. Follow these steps to lower your risk of infection:

  • Avoid contact with people who have coronavirus infection.
  • Avoid travelling to places that have an outbreak of coronavirus infection.
  • Wash your hands properly or clean them with an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or sleeve (not your hands) when you sneeze or cough, and throw the tissue away.
  • Do not share food, drink, or utensils.
  • Clean commonly touched surfaces with a disinfectant. 

If you are travelling, talk to your provider about:

  • Being up-to-date with vaccines
  • Carrying medicines

References

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Coronavirus (COVID-19). www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html. Accessed March 16, 2020.

Gerber SI, Watson JT. Coronaviruses. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI eds. Goldman-Cecil Medicine. 26th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 342.

Perlman S, McIntosh K. Coronaviruses, including severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS). In: Benett JE, Dolin R, Blaser MJ eds. Mandell, Douglas, and Bennett's Principles and Practice of Infectious Diseases. 9th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 155.

World Health Organization website. Coronavirus. www.who.int/health-topics/coronavirus. Accessed March 16, 2020.

  • Common cold

    Animation

  •  

    Common cold - Animation

    Most people have a general idea that when they start sneezing, their nose is runny, and their throat is scratchy, they're getting a cold. But what do you do about it? The common cold is something very common that people usually get on average three or more times during a year. And it is a virus that's primarily in the nose. The three main symptoms of a cold are sneezing, nasal stuffiness, and runny nose. You may have other symptoms, like having a fever of 100? or 101?, or you may have some tickling or scratchiness in the back of your throat. In fact, that may be the very first symptom, a little scratch in the back of your throat. Then after a couple days the nasal discharge tends to turn a little bit darker, maybe a little greener. Then after about a week, you're all the way better. So, what's the best way to treat a cold? The first thing you need is plenty of rest and fluids. Water, juice, and clear broth can help replace fluids you may lose during a fever. Chicken soup is another great choice, in fact, it can help relieve congestion. In short, chicken soup really is good food. Over-the-counter oral cold and cough medicines may help ease adult symptoms, but they don't treat the virus that caused your cold. In fact, so far there is no cure for the common cold. ALSO, don't give a child under 6 any cold medicines, they won't help your child, and they may have serious side effects. And antibiotics? They won't help a cold, and, if you take them too often, antibiotics can break down your body's ability to benefit from them in the future when you may really need them, such as when you get the flu. In general, remember that getting plenty of rest and fluids is the best way to help you deal with your cold symptoms. Eventually, your cold symptoms usually go away, probably in about a week. If you still feel sick after a week, see your doctor to rule out a sinus infection, allergies, or any other medical problem.

  • Pneumonia

    Animation

  •  

    Pneumonia - Animation

    Everyone coughs from time to time. You might pick up a cold, have an allergy, or just get a tickle from something irritating your throat. But if you're really hacking and coughing up yellow or green mucus, and you've also got a fever, chills, and shortness of breath, you may have picked up a more serious infection, called pneumonia. And sometimes pneumonia's symptoms aren't as obvious. Pneumonia is caused by an infection in your lung. Bacteria or viruses like these can sometimes get into your lungs through your nose or mouth and make you sick. You're more likely to get pneumonia if you've got a problem with your immune system that makes it harder to fight off infections. You're also at greater risk if you've got a lung disease like COPD or cystic fibrosis, you've recently had the flu, or you're exposed to cigarette smoke. People who live in nursing homes are also more likely to get pneumonia. With pneumonia, you may cough up greenish or yellow phlegm. You also may run a fever and have the chills. Pneumonia can make it hard to breathe. You may feel like you've run up a flight of stairs when you were just sitting still. Your doctor can tell that you have pneumonia and not just a cold by listening with a stethoscope for crackle sounds in your chest. You may need a chest x-ray or blood tests to know for sure that you have pneumonia. If bacteria caused your pneumonia, your doctor can give you antibiotics, drugs that kill bacteria. Keep taking the antibiotic until you finish the whole prescription so you don't re-infect yourself. To help loosen all of that mucus clogging your lungs, breathe in the warm mist from a humidifier and drink plenty of water. Take it easy too. Don't try to run back to work and infect everyone else. Rest until you feel better. Whatever you do, don't smoke, it will only make your pneumonia worse. If your pneumonia is really severe or you have another serious health problem, your doctor may recommend that you get treated in the hospital. While there, you'll get antibiotics and fluids through a vein. You may also be given oxygen to help you breathe easier. The best way to deal with pneumonia is to avoid getting it in the first place. Older adults, children, and people with serious conditions like diabetes, asthma, cancer, and emphysema should talk to their doctor about getting vaccinated against pneumonia and the illnesses that cause it. Once you get treated, your pneumonia should clear up within a couple of weeks. Your doctor may want to check your lungs to make sure they're clear. Sometimes pneumonia can lead to serious lung complications, so call your doctor right away if your breathing problems get worse, you have chest pain, or you cough up blood.

  • Vacation health care

    Animation

  •  

    Vacation health care - Animation

    Planning ahead of time can make your travels smoother and help you avoid problems. Let's talk today about vacation health care. Always prepare in advance for health problems you might experience when you travel. Ask your health insurance carrier what they will cover or pay for, and consider buying traveler's insurance when you travel abroad. If your children are not traveling with you, leave a signed consent-to-treat form with their caretaker. And if you are taking medications, talk to your health care provider before leaving. Make sure you carry your medications in your carry-on bag, never in your luggage. Research the health care in the country you are visiting. And if you can, find out where you would go if you needed medical help. So, what should you pack? Well, you'll want to bring several important items on your trip. Pack a first aid kit, immunization records, insurance ID cards, and medical records for any chronic illnesses or recent medical surgery. Bring a list of the names and phone numbers of your pharmacist and health care providers. Pack any nonprescription medications you might need, along with sunscreen, a hat, and sunglasses. So, what do you do on the road? When you travel, know what steps you need to take to prevent different diseases and infections. This includes how to avoid mosquito bites, what foods you can eat safely, where you can eat safely, how to drink water and other liquids, and proper hand washing. If you are visiting an area where traveler's diarrhea is common, know how to prevent and treat it. Be aware of automobile safety and use seat belts when you travel. Upon arriving at your destination, check the local emergency number. If you're traveling a long way, expect your body to adjust to a new time zone at about the rate of 1 hour per day. If you're traveling with children, make sure they know the name and telephone number of your hotel, just in case they get separated from you. Write this information down and put it in their pocket. Give them enough money to make a phone call, and make sure they know how to use phones if you are visiting a foreign country. As always, a little preparation goes a long way to preventing problems.

  • Coronavirus

    Coronavirus - illustration

    Coronaviruses are a family of viruses. Infection with these viruses can cause mild to moderate respiratory illnesses such as the common cold. Some coronaviruses may cause severe illness and lead to pneumonia or even death.

    Coronavirus

    illustration

  • Pneumonia

    Pneumonia - illustration

    Pneumonia is an inflammation of the lungs caused by an infection. Many different organisms can cause it, including bacteria, viruses, and fungi. Pneumonia is a common illness that affects millions of people each year in the United States. The symptoms of pneumonia range from very mild to very severe, even fatal. The severity depends on the type of organism causing pneumonia as well as the age and underlying health of the individual.

    Pneumonia

    illustration

  • Cold symptoms

    Cold symptoms - illustration

    Colds are caused by a virus and can occur year-round. The common cold generally involves a runny nose, nasal congestion, and sneezing. Other symptoms include sore throat, cough, and headache. A cold usually lasts about 7 days, with perhaps a few lingering symptoms such as a cough for another week.

    Cold symptoms

    illustration

  • Respiratory system

    Respiratory system - illustration

    Air is breathed in through the nasal passageways, travels through the trachea and bronchi to the lungs.

    Respiratory system

    illustration

  • Upper respiratory tract

    Upper respiratory tract - illustration

    The major passages and structures of the upper respiratory tract include the nose or nostrils, nasal cavity, mouth, throat (pharynx), and voice box (larynx). The respiratory system is lined with a mucous membrane that secretes mucus. The mucus traps smaller particles like pollen or smoke. Hairlike structures called cilia line the mucous membrane and move the particles trapped in the mucus out of the nose. Inhaled air is moistened, warmed, and cleansed by the tissue that lines the nasal cavity.

    Upper respiratory tract

    illustration

  • Lower respiratory tract

    Lower respiratory tract - illustration

    The major passages and structures of the lower respiratory tract include the windpipe (trachea) and within the lungs, the bronchi, bronchioles, and alveoli. Deep in the lungs, each bronchus divides into secondary and tertiary bronchi, which continue to branch to smaller airways called the bronchioles. The bronchioles end in air sacs called the alveoli. Alveoli are bunched together into clusters to form alveolar sacs. Gas exchange occurs on the surface of each alveolus by a network of capillaries carrying blood that has come through veins from other parts of the body.

    Lower respiratory tract

    illustration

  • Common cold

    Animation

  •  

    Common cold - Animation

    Most people have a general idea that when they start sneezing, their nose is runny, and their throat is scratchy, they're getting a cold. But what do you do about it? The common cold is something very common that people usually get on average three or more times during a year. And it is a virus that's primarily in the nose. The three main symptoms of a cold are sneezing, nasal stuffiness, and runny nose. You may have other symptoms, like having a fever of 100? or 101?, or you may have some tickling or scratchiness in the back of your throat. In fact, that may be the very first symptom, a little scratch in the back of your throat. Then after a couple days the nasal discharge tends to turn a little bit darker, maybe a little greener. Then after about a week, you're all the way better. So, what's the best way to treat a cold? The first thing you need is plenty of rest and fluids. Water, juice, and clear broth can help replace fluids you may lose during a fever. Chicken soup is another great choice, in fact, it can help relieve congestion. In short, chicken soup really is good food. Over-the-counter oral cold and cough medicines may help ease adult symptoms, but they don't treat the virus that caused your cold. In fact, so far there is no cure for the common cold. ALSO, don't give a child under 6 any cold medicines, they won't help your child, and they may have serious side effects. And antibiotics? They won't help a cold, and, if you take them too often, antibiotics can break down your body's ability to benefit from them in the future when you may really need them, such as when you get the flu. In general, remember that getting plenty of rest and fluids is the best way to help you deal with your cold symptoms. Eventually, your cold symptoms usually go away, probably in about a week. If you still feel sick after a week, see your doctor to rule out a sinus infection, allergies, or any other medical problem.

  • Pneumonia

    Animation

  •  

    Pneumonia - Animation

    Everyone coughs from time to time. You might pick up a cold, have an allergy, or just get a tickle from something irritating your throat. But if you're really hacking and coughing up yellow or green mucus, and you've also got a fever, chills, and shortness of breath, you may have picked up a more serious infection, called pneumonia. And sometimes pneumonia's symptoms aren't as obvious. Pneumonia is caused by an infection in your lung. Bacteria or viruses like these can sometimes get into your lungs through your nose or mouth and make you sick. You're more likely to get pneumonia if you've got a problem with your immune system that makes it harder to fight off infections. You're also at greater risk if you've got a lung disease like COPD or cystic fibrosis, you've recently had the flu, or you're exposed to cigarette smoke. People who live in nursing homes are also more likely to get pneumonia. With pneumonia, you may cough up greenish or yellow phlegm. You also may run a fever and have the chills. Pneumonia can make it hard to breathe. You may feel like you've run up a flight of stairs when you were just sitting still. Your doctor can tell that you have pneumonia and not just a cold by listening with a stethoscope for crackle sounds in your chest. You may need a chest x-ray or blood tests to know for sure that you have pneumonia. If bacteria caused your pneumonia, your doctor can give you antibiotics, drugs that kill bacteria. Keep taking the antibiotic until you finish the whole prescription so you don't re-infect yourself. To help loosen all of that mucus clogging your lungs, breathe in the warm mist from a humidifier and drink plenty of water. Take it easy too. Don't try to run back to work and infect everyone else. Rest until you feel better. Whatever you do, don't smoke, it will only make your pneumonia worse. If your pneumonia is really severe or you have another serious health problem, your doctor may recommend that you get treated in the hospital. While there, you'll get antibiotics and fluids through a vein. You may also be given oxygen to help you breathe easier. The best way to deal with pneumonia is to avoid getting it in the first place. Older adults, children, and people with serious conditions like diabetes, asthma, cancer, and emphysema should talk to their doctor about getting vaccinated against pneumonia and the illnesses that cause it. Once you get treated, your pneumonia should clear up within a couple of weeks. Your doctor may want to check your lungs to make sure they're clear. Sometimes pneumonia can lead to serious lung complications, so call your doctor right away if your breathing problems get worse, you have chest pain, or you cough up blood.

  • Vacation health care

    Animation

  •  

    Vacation health care - Animation

    Planning ahead of time can make your travels smoother and help you avoid problems. Let's talk today about vacation health care. Always prepare in advance for health problems you might experience when you travel. Ask your health insurance carrier what they will cover or pay for, and consider buying traveler's insurance when you travel abroad. If your children are not traveling with you, leave a signed consent-to-treat form with their caretaker. And if you are taking medications, talk to your health care provider before leaving. Make sure you carry your medications in your carry-on bag, never in your luggage. Research the health care in the country you are visiting. And if you can, find out where you would go if you needed medical help. So, what should you pack? Well, you'll want to bring several important items on your trip. Pack a first aid kit, immunization records, insurance ID cards, and medical records for any chronic illnesses or recent medical surgery. Bring a list of the names and phone numbers of your pharmacist and health care providers. Pack any nonprescription medications you might need, along with sunscreen, a hat, and sunglasses. So, what do you do on the road? When you travel, know what steps you need to take to prevent different diseases and infections. This includes how to avoid mosquito bites, what foods you can eat safely, where you can eat safely, how to drink water and other liquids, and proper hand washing. If you are visiting an area where traveler's diarrhea is common, know how to prevent and treat it. Be aware of automobile safety and use seat belts when you travel. Upon arriving at your destination, check the local emergency number. If you're traveling a long way, expect your body to adjust to a new time zone at about the rate of 1 hour per day. If you're traveling with children, make sure they know the name and telephone number of your hotel, just in case they get separated from you. Write this information down and put it in their pocket. Give them enough money to make a phone call, and make sure they know how to use phones if you are visiting a foreign country. As always, a little preparation goes a long way to preventing problems.

  • Coronavirus

    Coronavirus - illustration

    Coronaviruses are a family of viruses. Infection with these viruses can cause mild to moderate respiratory illnesses such as the common cold. Some coronaviruses may cause severe illness and lead to pneumonia or even death.

    Coronavirus

    illustration

  • Pneumonia

    Pneumonia - illustration

    Pneumonia is an inflammation of the lungs caused by an infection. Many different organisms can cause it, including bacteria, viruses, and fungi. Pneumonia is a common illness that affects millions of people each year in the United States. The symptoms of pneumonia range from very mild to very severe, even fatal. The severity depends on the type of organism causing pneumonia as well as the age and underlying health of the individual.

    Pneumonia

    illustration

  • Cold symptoms

    Cold symptoms - illustration

    Colds are caused by a virus and can occur year-round. The common cold generally involves a runny nose, nasal congestion, and sneezing. Other symptoms include sore throat, cough, and headache. A cold usually lasts about 7 days, with perhaps a few lingering symptoms such as a cough for another week.

    Cold symptoms

    illustration

  • Respiratory system

    Respiratory system - illustration

    Air is breathed in through the nasal passageways, travels through the trachea and bronchi to the lungs.

    Respiratory system

    illustration

  • Upper respiratory tract

    Upper respiratory tract - illustration

    The major passages and structures of the upper respiratory tract include the nose or nostrils, nasal cavity, mouth, throat (pharynx), and voice box (larynx). The respiratory system is lined with a mucous membrane that secretes mucus. The mucus traps smaller particles like pollen or smoke. Hairlike structures called cilia line the mucous membrane and move the particles trapped in the mucus out of the nose. Inhaled air is moistened, warmed, and cleansed by the tissue that lines the nasal cavity.

    Upper respiratory tract

    illustration

  • Lower respiratory tract

    Lower respiratory tract - illustration

    The major passages and structures of the lower respiratory tract include the windpipe (trachea) and within the lungs, the bronchi, bronchioles, and alveoli. Deep in the lungs, each bronchus divides into secondary and tertiary bronchi, which continue to branch to smaller airways called the bronchioles. The bronchioles end in air sacs called the alveoli. Alveoli are bunched together into clusters to form alveolar sacs. Gas exchange occurs on the surface of each alveolus by a network of capillaries carrying blood that has come through veins from other parts of the body.

    Lower respiratory tract

    illustration

 

Review Date: 2/3/2020

Reviewed By: Barry S. Zingman, MD, Medical Director, AIDS Center, and Clinical Director, Infectious Diseases, Montefiore Medical Center; Professor of Medicine, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Bronx, NY. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team. Editorial update 03/16/2020.

The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., a business unit of Ebix, Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
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