Coronaviruses are a family of viruses common across the world in animals and humans; certain types cause illnesses in people.
COVID-19 is the name of the disease seen in people infected with a new strain of coronavirus not previously seen in humans. The virus that causes this disease is “severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2)”.
Based on current evidence, the main symptoms of COVID-19 are a cough, a high temperature and, in severe cases, shortness of breath, however for the majority of people, the symptoms are mild.
As it is a new virus, the lack of immunity in the population (and the absence as yet of an effective vaccine) means that COVID-19 has the potential to spread extensively. Among those who become infected, some will exhibit no symptoms. Data suggests that the great majority will have a mild-to-moderate, but self-limiting illness and will not require any medical treatment.
It is, however, also clear that a minority of people who get COVID-19 will develop complications, most often pneumonia, severe enough to require hospital care. The data suggests that the risk of severe disease and death increases amongst elderly people and in people with underlying health conditions.
Illness is less common and usually less severe in younger adults. So far, there has been no obvious sign that pregnant women are more likely to be seriously affected.
When we reduce our day-to-day contact with other people, we will reduce the spread of the infection.