• By Dana Sparks

Infectious Diseases A–Z: Novel coronavirus named COVID-19

February 12, 2020

COVID-19 is the new name for the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

The World Health Organization (WHO) says that "Co" and "vi" are derived from coronavirus, "d" stands for disease, and "19" is the year first cases were seen.

WHO says public health experts and researchers continue to discuss the ongoing global response to the outbreak.

"There's been one report of possible transmission from mother to child, during pregnancy," says Dr. Gregory Poland, director of Mayo Clinic's Vaccine Research Group. "There's also some evidence aligning with this virus being a SARS-like virus, and possibly mutating (diverging) into different genotypes."

Dr. Nipunie Rajapakse, a pediatric infectious diseases specialist at Mayo Clinic, reminds the public that there are still several unknowns about COVID-19 and that it's reasonable to continue asking questions.

"It's definitely a serious situation, and countries are working to put measures in place to try and limit the spread, outside of the epicenter in China," says Dr. Rajapakse. "We're still working to understand how it's transmitted, the best way to prevent people from getting ill, and what to do when they do become sick."

Watch: Dr. Nipunie Rajapakse talks about Covid-19 and the flu.

Journalists: Broadcast-quality sound bites with Dr. Rajapakse are in the downloads at the end of the post. Please "Courtesy: Mayo Clinic News Network." 

However, Dr. Rajapakse says there's really a low risk for COVID-19 in the U.S. and that, right now, influenza needs more attention.

"We've been fielding a lot of questions from parents and families who are understandably concerned by what they're seeing in the news about the coronavirus," says Dr. Rajapakse. "But at the moment, we can say the risk to the general public is extremely low in the U.S. In fact, when you compare it to influenza, which we're currently in the midst of flu season here, that's what people should be most concerned about."

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 19 million people have been ill with influenza this season, with 10,000 flu deaths reported in the U.S.

Check the CDC website for additional updates on COVID-19.
For all your COVID-19 coverage, click here.

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