COVID-19: So, what exactly is COVID?

Note: please see the links at the bottom of this section for the most RECENT information from our public health partners from state and federal government. Guidance changes rapidly as scientists learn more each day.

COVID, or COVID-19 is an illness caused by a virus that is a “coronavirus.” There are many forms of coronaviruses and each type or “strain” of the virus has its own characteristics. THIS particular virus is considered to be new or “novel.” Sometimes, medical scientists or doctors will refer to this actual virus strain as SARS-CoV-2 (which is the specific virus that causes the illness we are calling COVID-19). Our body’s immune system has never experienced this particular strain of coronavirus before, making it more likely that if we are exposed to the virus we will get sick.

COVID-19 is a respiratory illness. It affects the lungs and other body parts that we use to breathe (the respiratory system). Severe cases of COVID-19 can affect other organs. People with compromised immune systems or underlying health problems tend to have more severe symptoms. Worldwide, of those who get sick from COVID-19, older people (age 60 and higher) tend to have a higher severity of illness and a higher death rate if infected. However, younger people can be infected and get very sick. Some people become infected with the virus and may have no (or very few/mild) symptoms, yet still have the ability to spread infection.

The virus is of high concern because it is more contagious than many other common illnesses like seasonal influenza. The symptoms of COVID-19 can also be much more severe leading to greater risk of serious illness that requires hospitalization or death. Currently, as of early April, 2020, there are no vaccines to prevent people from getting this virus, but scientists are working worldwide to develop vaccines to prevent the illness. They are also doing research on therapeutic drugs to lessen symptoms for those who do get sick or to make people who are sick be less contagious.

More information on COVID-19 and SPECIFIC measures people can take to protect themselves and others can be found at the links below. We recommend that you check back with these sources every few days as scientists and medical professionals worldwide are updating information constantly.

Wisconsin Department of Health Services

United States Centers for Disease Control – CDC

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