What is coronavirus and COVID-19?

This illustration in January 2020 shows the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV). This virus was identified as the cause of an outbreak of respiratory illness first detected in Wuhan, China. (CDC via AP)
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INDIANAPOLIS (WTHR) — Internet searches for the term coronavirus have risen from nothing since the start of the year. But what is a coronavirus and how is it different than a novel coronavirus or COVID-19?

Here are the definitions of the terms you are seeing and answers to questions you might be asking:

Google search trends for the term coronavirus, from 1/1/2020 to 3/1/2020. (Google)
Google search trends for the term coronavirus, from 1/1/2020 to 3/1/2020. (Google)

What is a coronavirus?

According to the World Health Organization, a coronavirus is a type of virus that ranges from the common cold to diseases like Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS.) A coronavirus can be transmitted between animals and humans.

What is a novel coronavirus?

When a new strain of a coronavirus is identified, it is referred to as a novel coronavirus. You can think of it as being a "new" coronavirus.

What is COVID-19?

The Centers for Disease Control said the novel coronavirus discovered in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China in 2019 was officially named "SARS CoV-2."

The CDC said the SARS-CoV-2 virus is similar to MERS-CoV and SARS-CoV. All three have an origin in bats.

The disease the new SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus causes is named "coronavirus disease 2019" and is abbreviated as COVID-19.


Where did COVID-19 come from?

This is still being investigated, but the CDC reports the initial disease traces back to a market in Wuhan:

Early on, many of the patients at the epicenter of the outbreak in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China had some link to a large seafood and live animal market, suggesting animal-to-person spread. Later, a growing number of patients reportedly did not have exposure to animal markets, indicating person-to-person spread. Person-to-person spread was subsequently reported outside Hubei and in countries outside China, including in the United States.

How can you catch COVID-19?

The CDC said you can catch the disease by person-to-person contact or by coming into contact with an infected surface or object:

Person-to-person spread

The virus is thought to spread mainly from person-to-person.

  • Between people who are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet).
  • Through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes.

These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs.

Spread from contact with infected surfaces or objects

It may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads.