2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV)


2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) is the cause of a respiratory illness that mainly involves the respiratory tract. It causes fever, coughing, and shortness of breath. Some people infected with 2019-nCoV have died. Some people have none or only mild symptoms.

Alternative Names

Wuhan coronavirus; Coronavirus-2019; Coronavirus-Novel 2019


The 2019 Novel coronavirus infection is caused by a member of the coronavirus family of viruses that can affect people and animals. Coronaviruses can cause mild to moderate respiratory illnesses, such as the common cold. Some coronaviruses can cause severe illness that can lead to pneumonia, and even death.

2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV)

2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV)

2019-nCoV was first reported in Wuhan City, Hubei Province, China in early December, 2019. Since then, it has quickly spread to other locations in Asia, Australia, Europe, and North America, including a few people the United States.

No one knows exactly where the 2019-nCoV virus comes from. It is related to MERS and SARS coronaviruses, which originated in bats.

Currently it is not fully understood how the 2019-nCoV virus spreads. The virus can spread from animals to humans and from person-to-person.

Respiratory viruses usually are spread when someone coughs or sneezes, and infected droplets spray into the air. You can catch the virus if you breathe in or touch these particles. However, at this time, no one knows how easily the 2019-nCoV virus spreads among people. Health experts are working to understand more about this virus.

The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) considers this is a very serious public health threat. However, based on what is currently known, the immediate health risk from 2019-nCoV to the American general public is considered low at this time.

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Symptoms in people with the 2019-nCoV virus have ranged from mild to severe, and some people have died from the virus. Most of those who have died already had other health problems or have been older people.

The main symptoms are:

Symptoms may appear within 2 to 14 days. The CDC recommends that if you have developed a fever, cough, or difficulty breathing, and:

You have recently traveled to China and developed symptoms within 14 days since returning,


You have had close contact with someone who is known to have the 2019-nCov virus and have developed symptoms within 14 days of contact with the person who is sick,

you should:

  • Seek medical care right away. Before you go to a doctor's office or emergency room, call ahead and tell them about your recent travel, other potential exposures to the virus, and your symptoms.
  • Avoid contact with other people and with pets or other animals. (Some coronaviruses can spread to animals. It is not clear if 2019-nCoV can spread to animals.) Do not leave your home except to get medical care.
  • As much as possible, stay away from others in your home. Use a separate bathroom if you can.
  • Use a face mask when you are with people in the same room and when you see your health care provider.
  • Do not travel while sick. Do not use public transportation or taxis.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when coughing or sneezing.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available.

Exams and Tests

Samples of blood, sputum, and swabs from the back of the nose and throat may be taken. In some cases, samples of fluid from the lungs may be collected by bronchoscopy. Urine and stool samples also may be collected for further testing. If a person is thought to have 2019-nCoV, these samples will be sent to the CDC for testing.


There is no specific treatment at this time, although some people are being given experimental medicines. Supportive care is given to help relieve symptoms.

Possible Complications

Complications can include:

  • Respiratory failure
  • Death

When to Contact a Medical Professional

If you have traveled to China or have been in contact with someone with 2019-nCoV within the last two weeks and develop symptoms, contact your provider right away.


There is no vaccine for 2019-nCoV. The best way to avoid infection is to avoid people  who have the virus. For that reason, the CDC is recommending that people do not travel to China, and that travelers from China be tested and isolated for up to 14 days. If you must travel, talk with your provider before you travel. While there:

  • Avoid contact with sick people.
  • Avoid animals (alive or dead), animal markets, and products that come from animals (such as uncooked meat).
  • Wash your hands often. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available.

Taking these steps can prevent the spread of respiratory viruses:

  • Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and water, or clean them with an alcohol-based instant hand sanitizer.
  • Don't touch your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you sneeze or cough. Droplets that are released when a person sneezes or coughs are infectious. Throw the tissue away after use.
  • DO NOT share food, drink, or utensils.
  • Clean commonly-touched surfaces with a disinfectant.

For the most up-to-date news and information about 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV), you can visit the following websites:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. 2019 Novel Coronavirus. www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html

World Health Organization website. Novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019


2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV)
Respiratory system
Upper respiratory tract
Lower respiratory tract


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. About 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/about/index.html. Updated February 2, 2020. Accessed February 3, 2020.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Frequently asked questions and answers. www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/faq.html. Updated February 3, 2020. Accessed February 3, 2020.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Information for healthcare professionals. www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-nCoV/guidance-hcp.html. Updated February 1, 2020. Accessed February 3, 2020.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Novel coronavirus information for travelers. www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/travelers/index.html. Updated February 3, 2020. Accessed February 4, 2020.

Review Date: 
Reviewed By: 
Barry S. Zingman, MD, Medical Director, AIDS Center, and Clinical Director, Infectious Diseases, Montefiore Medical Center; Professor of Medicine, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Bronx, NY. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.