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COVID-19 is an ongoing infectious global pandemic caused by the most recently discovered coronavirus. The virus was unknown until the outbreak began in Wuhan, China in December 2019. As of March 12, 2020, over 4500 people had perished from the disease and there were over 130,000 reported cases from around the world. In humans, several coronaviruses are known to cause respiratory infections ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).
The virus that causes COVID-19 is not the same as the one that caused the outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) in 2013, but they are related to each other genetically and differ in the diseases they cause. Where SARS is concerned, it is more deadly but less infectious than COVID-19.
The virus first came to light when health authorities in Wuhan, Hubei Province of China, reported in December 2019 a cluster of pneumonia cases of unknown cause. The initial cases mostly had links to the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market and were believed to have originated in bats of the Rhinolophus genus. The earliest reported symptoms occurred on December 1, 2019 in a person who had not had any exposure to the wholesale market. Of the first cluster, two-thirds were found to have a link with the wet market, which also sold live animals.
As of now, it appears that COVID-19 is being spread by people who have been infected when they either sneeze, cough or exhale. The virus can spread from person to person through small droplets from the nose or mouth, as the droplets land on objects and surfaces around the person. When healthy people touch the objects or surfaces and then touch their eyes, nose or mouth they can catch the virus. They can also catch the virus if they breathe in droplets from a person with COVID-19 who coughs out or exhales droplets. Hence it is important to stay more than 1 meter (3 feet) away from a person who is sick. Research on other ways that the virus is being spread is ongoing at the moment.
As per the information given on international health websites like the World Health Organisation (WHO), the most common symptoms are fever, tiredness, and dry cough. Aside from that, some people who have been infected may have aches and pains, nasal congestion, runny nose, sore throat or diarrhea. But some people can become infected and not show any symptoms or that they are unwell. In more serious cases, people suffering from COVID-19 can develop difficulty in breathing. People with underlying medical problems like high blood pressure, heart problems or diabetes and older folks are more likely to develop serious illness.
It all depends on where you are. If you are in an area where a COVID-19 outbreak has been reported, you are at risk of contracting the disease. As of now, the risk of catching COVID-19 is still low for most people in most locations. With government and health authorities taking vigorous action every time a new case of COVID-19 is identified, the risk of the virus spreading can be minimised.
There is no vaccine, drug or specific antiviral medicine to prevent or treat COVID-2019 as of now. The most effective ways to protect yourself and others against COVID-19 are to frequently clean your hands, cover your cough with the bend of elbow or tissue, and maintain a distance of at least 1 meter (3 feet) from people who are coughing or sneezing.
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