Your Most Pressing Questions About the Coronavirus, Answered

What are the symptoms? How bad will the outbreak become? The latest advice to keep you informed and safe.

Robert Roy Britt
Elemental
Published in
10 min readFeb 25, 2020

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Photo: Daniel Leal-Olivas/Getty Images

Find answers to the latest questions about COVID-19 here.

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The coronavirus is a newly discovered strain of a family of viruses that infect animals and sometimes humans. Below are some common questions (and answers) about the rapidly spreading outbreak, now officially called coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) by the World Health Organization (WHO) and previously referred to as the “2019 novel coronavirus” or 2019-nCoV.

Where did this new coronavirus virus come from?

The virus itself, named SARS-CoV-2 originated in bats, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In December 2019, the first cases in humans were detected, in the Chinese city of Wuhan. Early cases are believed to involve people who had been to a large animal and seafood market. Two previous human outbreaks of coronaviruses — severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) — also originated in bats.

How contagious is this coronavirus?

The virus is now known to spread from human to human. How easily is not yet determined. Any given virus can spread reluctantly or be highly contagious. Measles, for example, is far more contagious than early analyses of this coronavirus indicate, says Nancy Messonnier, MD, director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases.

One reason the disease appears to be spreading rapidly may be due to delays in confirming early cases in some countries, in part given that only recently has the ability to test for the virus gone beyond a few specialized labs, including in China and at the CDC.

“As this case confirmation process becomes more speedy, the reporting of cases will appear to be faster — not necessarily because of the disease spreading faster, but because of the ability to identify and confirm cases becomes faster,” says Dr. Wilbur Chen, associate…

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Robert Roy Britt
Elemental

Editor of Aha! and Wise & Well on Medium + the Writer's Guide at writersguide.substack.com. Author of Make Sleep Your Superpower: amazon.com/dp/B0BJBYFQCB