May also be called: MERS-CoV, SARS-CoV, 2019-nCoV, COVID-19
A coronavirus (kuh-RO-nuh-vy-rus) is a common virus that can cause illnesses of
the upper respiratory tract.
More to Know
Viruses are germs that can make people
and animals sick. Viruses cause colds,
hand, foot, and mouth disease, and many
other diseases. Coronaviruses are a family of viruses that can infect the respiratory
tract and cause symptoms like a runny nose, cough, sore throat, and fever.
Seven coronaviruses can infect humans, including the viruses that cause Middle
East respiratory syndrome (MERS) and severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS). Other
coronaviruses can infect animals like cats, dogs, monkeys, and rodents.
Almost everyone gets infected with a coronavirus at some point. Usually, the symptoms
are mild and last for just a few days. In rare cases, a coronavirus infection can
lead to a more serious problem like pneumonia
or MERS, a severe infection of the respiratory tract that hasn't been found outside
of the Arabian Peninsula. SARS is also serious but hasn't been seen since 2004.
At the end of 2019, a new type of coronavirus
called COVID-19 began to make people sick in China. This virus came from animals and
moved to people, probably at a market selling live seafood and animals. It causes
fever, cough, and trouble breathing. It can be more serious in some people, especially
if they were already sick.
Doctors believe that coronaviruses spread from person to person through the air
by sneezing or coughing, or by close contact, such as shaking hands. Coronavirus infections
are most common in the fall and winter.
Treatment for most coronavirus infections involves easing symptoms until the infection
runs its course. More serious infections may need treatment in a hospital or other
Keep in Mind
Chances are you've had a coronavirus infection in the past but thought it was a
cold. If you have any concerns about a cough, fever, or other symptoms, call your
All A to Z dictionary entries are regularly reviewed by KidsHealth medical