About COVID-19

What is COVID-19?

COVID-19 is short for coronavirus disease 2019 because the virus was first identified in Wuhan China in 2019. Etymologically, CO stands for “corona,” VI for “virus,” and D for disease. In February 2020, the virus was officially named COVID-19 after being referred to as “2019 novel coronavirus” or “2019-nCoV.” A novel coronavirus is defined as a new coronavirus that has not been previously identified.

Human coronaviruses were first identified in the mid-1960s and are named due to the appearance of crown-like spires on the virus’ surface. To date, there are seven coronaviruses that can infect humans: 229E, NL63, OC43, HKU1, MERS-CoV, SARS-CoV, and SARS-COV-2. Sometimes a coronavirus that infects animals can evolve and infect humans thereby becoming a new human coronavirus, such is the case with COVID-19 (SARS-CoV-2).

There are four main sub-groupings of coronaviruses: alpha, beta, gamma, and delta. Like MER-CoV and SARS-CoV, COVID-19 is a beta coronavirus, meaning it is capable of infecting mammals with its natural reservoir being bats and rodents.

How Does COVID Spread?

According to the CDC, COVID-19 spreads very easily from person to person, more efficiently than the flu but not as efficiently as the measles which is considered among the most contagious viruses known to affect people.

COVID-19 is thought to spread mainly from close contact between persons, including between people nearby (within 6 ft.). Infected persons may not show symptoms but can sill spread the virus to others.

  • Close contact is most common
    • Being near or having direct contact with a person with COVID-19.
    • Respiratory droplets from coughs, sneezes, signing, talking, or breathing from someone with COVID-19.
  • Airborne transmission can sometimes spread the virus
    • Enclosed spaces with inadequate ventilation can spread the virus to others more than 6 feet away.
  • Contact with contaminated surfaces is less common
    • Respiratory droplets can land on surfaces and objects that can be touched.
    • Transmission occurs when the person who has touched a contaminated surface touches their own mouth, nose, or eyes.
  • Spread between people and animals is considered rare


On December 31, 2019, the outbreak of COVID-19 was first reported in Wuhan, China. Within weeks, the virus had spread throughout the China; within a month, Italy, German, and the United States were reporting cases. Though when the virus actually started is continually being updated, the epidemic itself reportedly started around December 12, 2019.

On January 20, 2020, the state of Washington and the CDC diagnosed the first case of COVID-19 in the United States, a Washington man who became ill on January 19th after returning from Wuhan, China on January 15th. Additionally, the CDC states that three U.S. airports will begin screening for COVID-19. CDC’s case & death tracker begins with Patient #1 on January 22, 2020.

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