The new coronavirus, now known as Covid-19, was first encountered in Wuhan, China, in December 2019, and has gone on to affect over 135,000 people in over 80 countries around the globe, causing more than 4,900 deaths.
The virus can cause pneumonia. Those who have fallen ill are reported to suffer coughs, fever and breathing difficulties. In severe cases there can be organ failure. As this is viral pneumonia, antibiotics are of no use. The antiviral drugs we have against flu will not work. If people are admitted to hospital, they may get support for their lungs and other organs, as well as fluids. Recovery will depend on the strength of their immune system. Many of those who have died were already in poor health.
The name Covid-19 was announced on 11 February by the World Health Organization. The director general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said: “We had to find a name that did not refer to a geographical location, an animal, an individual or group of people, and which is also pronounceable and related to the disease. Having a name matters to prevent the use of other names that can be inaccurate or stigmatising.”