MSF is currently responding to a worldwide coronavirus pandemic, COVID-19. We have previously responded to other outbreaks of serious coronavirus, including Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).
While four types of coronavirus are known to cause colds, SARS and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) can cause severe lung infections, and can be fatal. A new coronavirus known as SARS-CoV-2, because of its similarities to the virus that causes SARS, causes the new disease COVID-19.
This new coronavirus seems to target cells in the lungs, and possibly other cells in the respiratory system too. Cells infected by the virus will produce more virus particles, which can then spread to other people, for instance by coughing. COVID-19 will be a mild respiratory illness for the vast majority of people but it has a higher rate of quite severe complications for vulnerable people (elderly and people with comorbidities), than other viruses such as flu.
Five things to know about the coronavirus pandemic
We’ve never seen a global outbreak like the new coronavirus disease, or COVID-19. It threatens to overwhelm health systems and health workers everywhere unless we all take immediate action. Here are five things to know about what makes this pandemic so dangerous, and what can be done to slow the spread of the virus. Simple measures can help flatten the curve of the epidemic, including physical distancing and proper hand washing.