COVID-19 (coronavirus disease) is an infectious illness caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus. It was identified in late 2019. The disease spread rapidly around the world and was declared a global pandemic by the World Health Organisation in March 2020.
Most people infected with the virus that causes COVID-19 experience mild to moderate respiratory symptoms. The most common symptoms include fever, dry cough and tiredness. It usually takes 5–6 days from when someone is infected with the virus for symptoms to show. However, it may take up to 14 days to develop symptoms in some cases; some people do not develop symptoms at all.
Some people become more seriously ill and may require hospitalisation. Older people and those with underlying conditions – such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer, chronic respiratory illnesses and kidney failure – are at increased risk of severe complications or death.
COVID-19 spreads through droplets of saliva or discharge from the nose when an infected person coughs or sneezes. The spread of the disease can be reduced through good hygiene practices and reduced social contact.
The WHO recommends:
- Handwashing regularly with soap and water, or cleaning handles with alcohol-based hand rub
- Avoid touching your face
- Stay home if you have symptoms
- Practice physical distancing; avoid unnecessary journeys and mixing with large groups