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Coronaviruses are a type of common virus found in different animals. There are many different kinds of coronaviruses, some causing colds and mild respiratory illnesses while others can cause more serious illness including severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS). Only seven coronaviruses are known to cause disease in humans.

Coronaviruses are named for their appearance: Under the microscope, the viruses look like they are covered with pointed structures that surround them like a corona, or crown.

A newly identified (i.e. “novel”) type has caused a pandemic of respiratory illness now called COVID-19 starting in December 2019. This novel coronavirus (or “severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2”, or “SARS-CoV-2” for short) can be spread from person to person. It is diagnosed with a laboratory test. There is no coronavirus vaccine yet. As with most viruses, prevention involves frequent hand-washing, coughing into the bend of your elbow and staying home when sick (isolation).

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