A novel strain of coronavirus – SARS-CoV-2 – was first detected in December 2019 in Wuhan, a city in China’s Hubei province with a population of 11 million, after an outbreak of pneumonia without an obvious cause. The virus has now spread to over 150 countries across the globe, and was characterised as a pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO) on 11 March 2020.
Older adults and people with chronic health conditions, such as diabetes, heart disease and lung ailments, are more likely than younger, healthier people to experience serious symptoms from the illness caused by the coronavirus (COVID-19).
Much of what experts know is based on what is known about similar coronaviruses. When person-to-person transmission occurred with Middle Eastern respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) and severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus (SARS-CoV), respiratory droplets from coughs and sneezes from an infected person were the likely culprit, according to the CDC. Those droplets can land in the mouths or noses of nearby people or be inhaled into the lungs.
It may be possible to get COVID-19 by touching a contaminated surface or object and then touching your mouth, nose or eyes, “but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads,” the CDC says.