Coronavirus General Overview

What is the Coronavirus?

Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) is a respiratory disease caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which is a new virus strain that hasn’t been identified before in humans. It was first identified when it caused an outbreak of respiratory illness in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China in 2019. Coronaviruses are a family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). As with any newly emerging infectious disease, knowledge about COVID-19 is evolving with time. At this point, it is clear that the virus can pass person-to-person and cause severe disease.

How does the Coronavirus Spread?

Current knowledge of how SARS-CoV-2 spreads is largely based on what is known about similar coronaviruses, such as MERS-CoV and SARS. Most often, the spread of these viruses from person- to-person happens among close contact (within about 6 feet for a prolonged period). Person-to-person spread is thought to occur mainly via respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes, similar to how influenza and other respiratory pathogens spread. It’s currently unclear if a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes. With most respiratory viruses, people are thought to be most contagious when they are the sickest. Research to clarify the transmissibility, severity and other features associated with COVID-19 is ongoing. This information will further inform the risk assessment. 

View the CDC’s Frequently Asked Questions regarding COVID-19.




  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol content.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash. Or in a pinch, sneeze into the crook of your bent arm/elbow.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Stay home when you are sick;
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
  • If you are experiencing worsening flu-like symptoms, seek medical attention.
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain (e.g. grocery stores and pharmacies).  
  • Download a printable version of these guidelines.


  • Social distancing is a practice recommended by public health officials to stop or slow down the spread of contagious diseases. It requires the creation of physical space (at least six feet) between individuals who may spread certain infectious diseases.

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