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What is COVID-19?  

COVID-19 is an infectious disease caused by a new type of coronavirus. It was first discovered in December 2019 in Wuhan, China. 

Coronaviruses are a sub-group of viruses known to cause respiratory infections from the common cold through to Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), and now COVID-19.

COVID-19 causes high temperature, coughing, fever, loss or change in taste or smell and shortness of breath as its main symptoms.

Most people who catch it will have a mild illness (a bit like the flu). However, for other people, particularly those with other existing conditions (such as diabetes), the virus can be much more serious, and in some cases, life-threatening

How does it spread?


The virus is primarily spread by breathing in air that an infected person has breathed out. It is carried by small water droplets in our breath, that escape through our mouth and nose, into the air around us.


It can also be spread by touching contaminated surfaces, and then touching your face - particularly your mouth, nose, or eyes. This is probably a less common way of catching the virus, and can be avoided by regular hand-washing, and not touching your face.  

You can pass on the virus without knowing you are infected.

How do we stop it?

There are currently no vaccines or cure for COVID-19, but you can protect yourself (and others) by wearing a mask. A scientific review found that on average with a mask the chance of passing on the virus is 3.1% - without a mask, this increases to 17.4%!¹

Find out more about how face masks work here

See our latest science posts on our Science Blog



1. Physical Distancing, Face Masks, and Eye Protection to Prevent Person-to-Person Transmission of SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Lancet 2020;Jun 1:[Epub ahead of print].

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