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.
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:
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:
Human coronaviruses that cause the common cold spread from person-to-person. Symptoms develop in 2 to 14 days. These include:
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:
Your health care provider may take a sample of the following for laboratory testing:
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.
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:
Treatment for severe infections may include:
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.
Coronavirus infections may lead to bronchitis or pneumonia. Some severe forms may cause organ failure, and even death.
Contact your provider if you have:
Follow these steps to lower your risk of infection:
There are vaccines that can help prevent COVID-19. Contact your local health department to find out about availability in your area. Information about COVID-19 vaccines is available from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html.
If you are travelling, talk to your provider about:
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#tab=tab_1. Accessed March 16, 2020.BACK TO TOP
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 02/01/2021.
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