Everything You Need to Know About COVID-19 Causes, Symptoms and Treatments

Medically Reviewed by Kelsey Powell, MS, Medical Sciences

Photo Courtesy: [Morsa Images/DigitalVision/Getty Images]

COVID-19 is a disease caused by a virus called severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). This virus belongs to a family of other coronaviruses, which are pathogens that are responsible for causing illnesses such as the common cold, severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS).

Coronaviruses get their name from the Latin word “corona,” which means “crown.” This name originates from the club-shaped surface proteins of the virus that resemble a crown when looking at them under a microscope. Coronaviruses are also distinguished as being zoonotic, which means that they have the capacity to jump from animal to human hosts.  

The exact source of SARS-CoV-2 remains unclear. However, it was first identified in a seafood market in Wuhan, China, where it started the 2019 novel coronavirus outbreak. In March of 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared this outbreak a pandemic because the virus had rapidly begun infecting people around the globe.

SARS-CoV-2 and the disease it causes, called COVID-19, have had major impacts on nearly every country in the world. The virus has resulted in the deaths of millions of people and has left millions more survivors with lingering health effects. Fortunately, the scientific community was able to mobilize quickly and develop safe, effective vaccines to help stop the spread of COVID-19, but it’s still vital to be aware of the symptoms, risk factors and treatments for the virus as you do your part to stop the spread.