Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is an infectious disease caused by a newly discovered coronavirus.

Most people infected with the COVID-19 virus will experience mild to moderate respiratory illness and recover without requiring special treatment. Older people, and those with underlying medical problems like cardiovascular disease, diabetes, chronic respiratory disease, and cancer are more likely to develop serious illness.

The best way to prevent and slow down transmission is be well informed about the COVID-19 virus, the disease it causes and how it spreads. Protect yourself and others from infection by washing your hands or using an alcohol based rub frequently and not touching your face.

The COVID-19 virus spreads primarily through droplets of saliva or discharge from the nose when an infected person coughs or sneezes, so it’s important that you also practice respiratory etiquette (for example, by coughing into a flexed elbow).

At this time, there are no specific vaccines or treatments for COVID-19. However, there are many ongoing clinical trials evaluating potential treatments. WHO will continue to provide updated information as soon as clinical findings become available.

People with COVID-19 have had a wide range of symptoms reported – ranging from mild symptoms to severe illness.
Symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure to the virus. People with these symptoms may have COVID-19:

  • Fever or chills
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headache
  • New loss of taste or smell
  • Sore throat
  • Congestion or runny nose
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea

To prevent infection and to slow transmission of COVID-19, do the following:

  • Wash your hands regularly with soap and water, or clean them with alcohol-based hand rub.
  • Maintain at least 1 metre distance between you and people coughing or sneezing.
  • Avoid touching your face.
  • Cover your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing.
  • Stay home if you feel unwell.
  • Refrain from smoking and other activities that weaken the lungs.
  • Practice physical distancing by avoiding unnecessary travel and staying away from large groups of people.

A novel coronavirus is a new strain of coronavirus that has not been previously identified in humans. Coronaviruses (CoV) are a large family of viruses that can cause mild illness in the form of common cold to severe respiratory diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV).

Coronaviruses are zoonotic, it means they can be transmitted between animals and people. Previous investigations showed that other coronavirus, such as SARS-CoV was transmitted from civet cats to humans and MERS-CoV from dromedary camels to humans.
The precise origin of the 2019‑nCoV is still uncertain. The virus has been identified in environmental samples from a live animal market in Wuhan, China and some human cases have been epidemiologically linked to this market.

Mode of transmission:

Epidemiological evidence shows that 2019‑nCoV can be transmitted from one individual to another. In the previous outbreaks of other coronaviruses such as Middle-East respiratory syndrome (MERS-CoV) and the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), human-to-human transmission occurred most commonly through droplets, personal contact, and contaminated objects. The modes of transmission of 2019‑nCoV are likely to be similar.

The 2019-nCoV can be transmitted from person to person, usually after close contact with an infected patient, for example, in a household, workplace, or health care centre.

Two kinds of tests are available for COVID-19 diagnosis: tests for current infection (viral tests-molecular assays) and tests for past infection (antibody tests/serology tests).

Molecular assays: 2019-nCoV can be diagnosed by molecular assays in samples from upper respiratory tract collected as nasopharyngeal and oropharyngeal swabs and from lower respiratory tract by sputum (if possible for those patients with productive coughs) and or endotracheal aspirate or bronchoalveolar lavage in patients with more severe respiratory diseases.

Molecular based tests consist of real time RT-PCR, TrueNAAT/CBNAAT. It only indicates the presence of viral material during infection and do not indicate if a person was infected and subsequently recovered.

Proper infection control measures should be maintained when collecting specimens.

Serology tests: These are blood-based tests used to identify people who have been exposed to COVID-19 virus by looking at their immune response. These tests are used for surveillance purposes to know about the prevalence of a disease in a population by identifying individuals who have developed antibodies to the virus.

An antibody test may not be able to show a current infection, because it can take 1-3 weeks after infection to make antibodies.

National Institute of Virology, Pune, India is among the various laboratories have been identified internationally to provide reference testing support for 2019-nCoV.