April 2020

What Is the Coronavirus?

A young man washes his hands.A young man washes his hands.

A young man washes his hands.
A student demonstrates the proper way that people should wash their hands to prevent the spread of germs, like the coronavirus.

Life around the world is changing quickly due to COVID-19, which is short for coronavirus disease 2019. COVID-19 is caused by a virus, which is an agent that is too small to be seen by a regular microscope. Viruses are the cause of many diseases and are usually not considered to be living organisms. In some ways, the coronavirus is like the common cold or the flu. It is a respiratory illness that affects the lungs, nose, and throat. However, since the coronavirus is a new virus, doctors and scientists still have much to learn about it.

Many people who have caught the coronavirus are having only mild symptoms. Most children who catch it have not been getting very sick from it either. The main symptoms are fever, cough, and shortness of breath. The coronavirus can be very serious for senior citizens and people with certain health problems, such as asthma, diabetes, and heart disease. If people start to have more severe symptoms, such as trouble breathing or constant pain or pressure in their chest, they should seek medical attention. Doctors and other healthcare workers are working hard to help people with the illness get better. While many people around the world have died from the virus, an even larger number have recovered from the disease.

The coronavirus first appeared in and around the city of Wuhan, in the Hubei Province of China. Since then it has spread around the world to South Korea, Italy, Iran, Spain, Australia, the United States, and many other countries. It is now considered to be a pandemic because it’s affecting such a large portion of the world’s population. All 50 states in the United States have reported cases of COVID-19 to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC. The CDC is an agency of the U.S. government whose main goal is to protect public health and safety through the control and prevention of disease.

The coronavirus is highly contagious, which means it can spread quickly from person to person if people are not careful. To try to slow the number of people getting sick, communities around the world have announced mandatory (required by law) shelter-in-place orders. This means people are being told to stay home to help keep the virus from spreading. Under these orders, people can only go out in public to do “essential activities,” such as grocery shopping, taking a family member to the doctor, and caring for pets. To further slow the spread of the disease, places where large groups of people would normally gather, such as schools, businesses, parks, and community centers, have been closed.

Many adults are working from their homes if they can do their jobs that way. Some adults, such as doctors, police officers, and grocery store workers, must keep working in their communities because their jobs are essential to people’s survival. When people do leave their homes for work or other necessary reasons, they are encouraged to maintain “social distance.” This means staying more than six feet away from one another and not gathering in large groups. To help stop the spread of germs, people are also encouraged to practice the following germ-busting habits:

Germ-Busting Habits

  • Wash your hands using soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
  • Use alcohol-based hand sanitizer if you can’t wash your hands right away.
  • Keep your hands out of your mouth, nose, and eyes. This will help keep the virus out of your body.
  • Cough or sneeze into a tissue or your elbow if a tissue is not available.
  • Avoid people who are sick (coughing and sneezing).
  • Stay home when you are sick.
Image credit: ©Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

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Question 1
What is COVID-19?

Question 2
In which country did people first get sick from the coronavirus?

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