Readers no doubt have seen a variety of terms used in this newspaper and others in reference to the coronavirus pandemic. Here is some explanation of what term means what, followed by some straight-forward facts and information from the World Health Organization.

A coronavirus is a virus that is so named because it looks like it’s covered in small crowns (coronas). SARS, which stands for “severe acute respiratory syndrome,” and MERS, which stands for “Middle East Respiratory Syndrome,” are some other types of coronavirus.

The pandemic spreading across the globe now is a pandemic of what was initially called 2019 novel coronavirus. It now is officially named “severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2,” also known as SARS-CoV-2. The disease caused by SARS-CoV-2 is called COVID-19.

“Viruses, and the diseases they cause, often have different names,” according to the World Health Organization. “For example, HIV is the virus that causes AIDS. People often know the name of a disease, such as measles, but not the name of the virus that causes it (rubeola).”

Viruses are named by the International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses and given names that are easier to remember and pronounce so they can be discussed and reported on more easily, according to WHO.

“ICTV announced ‘severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2)’ as the name of the new virus in February,” according to WHO. “This name was chosen because the virus is genetically related to the coronavirus responsible for the SARS outbreak of 2003. While related, the two viruses are different.”

WHO settled on “COVID-19” as the name of the disease caused by SARS-CoV-2 in February as well, opting to stay away from using the SARS name to avoid confusion.

“WHO has begun referring to the virus as ‘the virus responsible for COVID-19 or ‘the COVID-19 virus’ when communicating with the public,” according to the WHO website.

The WHO coronavirus web page at offers the following information.


• Tiredness

• Dry cough

• Shortness of breath

• Aches and pains

• Sore throat

• Few people will report diarrhea, nausea or a runny nose

People with mild symptoms who are otherwise healthy should self-isolate and contact their medical provider or a COVID-19 information line for advice on testing and referral.

People with fever, cough or difficulty breathing should call their doctor and seek medical attention.


• Wash your hands regularly with soap and water, or clean them with alcohol-based hand rub.

• Maintain at least 6 feet distance between you and other people.

• Avoid touching your face.

• Cover your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing.

• Stay home if you feel unwell.

• Refrain from smoking and other activities that weaken the lungs.

• Practice physical distancing by avoiding unnecessary travel and staying away from large groups of people.

Other facts from WHO:

• Most people infected with the COVID-19 virus will experience mild to moderate respiratory illness and recover without requiring special treatment.

• Older people, and those with underlying medical problems such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, chronic respiratory disease and cancer are more likely to develop serious illness.

• The best way to prevent and slow down transmission is to be well informed about the COVID-19 virus, the disease it causes and how it spreads. Protect yourself and others from infection by washing your hands or using an alcohol-based rub frequently and not touching your face.

• The COVID-19 virus spreads primarily through droplets of saliva or discharge from the nose when an infected person coughs or sneezes, so it’s important that you also practice respiratory etiquette (for example, by coughing into a flexed elbow).

• At this time, there are no specific vaccines or treatments for COVID-19. However, many ongoing clinical trials are evaluating potential treatments. WHO will continue to provide updated information as soon as clinical findings become available.

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