Frequently Asked Questions

1. What is the coronavirus? 

The coronavirus is a (novel) new coronavirus that has not been previously identified. The virus causing coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), is not the same as the coronaviruses that commonly occurs among humans and cause mild illness. A diagnosis with coronavirus 229E, NL63, OC43, or HKU1 is not the same as a COVID-19 diagnosis. Patients with COVID-19 will be evaluated and cared for differently than patients with common coronavirus diagnosis. 

2. What is the name of the virus causing the outbreak of coronavirus disease? 

On February 11, 2020, the International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses, charged with naming new viruses, named the novel coronavirus, first identified in Wuhan, China, severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2, shortened to SARS-CoV-2. The virus is related to the SARS-associated coronavirus (SARS-CoV) that caused an outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) in 2002-2003; however it is not the same virus. 

3. What is the source of the virus? 

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses. Rarely, animal coronaviruses that infect animals have emerged to infect people and can spread between people. This is suspected to have occurred for the virus that causes COVID-19. Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) are two other examples of coronaviruses that originated from animals and then spread to people. More information about the source and spread of COVID-19 is available on the Situation Summary: Source and Spread of the Virus. 

4. How does the virus spread? 

This coronavirus was first detected in Wuhan City, Hubei Province, China. The first infections were linked to a live animal market, but the virus is now spreading from person to person. It’s important to note that person to person spread can happen on a continuum. Some viruses are highly contagious (like measles), while other viruses are less so. The virus that causes COVID-19 seems to be spreading easily and sustainably in the community (“community spread”) in some affected geographic areas. Community spread means people have been infected with the virus in an area, including some who are not sure how or where they became infected. Learn what is known about the spread of newly emerged coronaviruses. 

5. Can an infected person spread the virus? 

Yes, someone who is actively sick with COVID-19 can spread the illness to others. The CDC recommends that these patients be isolated either in the hospital or at home (depending on how sick they are) until they are better and no longer pose a risk of infecting others. 

For more information, visit CDC’s website