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COVID-19 facts for kids

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Coronavirus disease 2019
Transmission and life-cycle of SARS-CoV-2, which causes COVID-19
Classification and external resources
Synonyms COVID, (the) coronavirus
Specialty Infectious disease
Patient UK Coronavirus disease 2019

Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is a contagious disease caused by the virus severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). The first known case was identified in Wuhan, China, in December 2019. The disease quickly spread worldwide, resulting in the COVID-19 pandemic.


The symptoms of COVID‑19 are variable but often include fever, cough, headache, fatigue, breathing difficulties, loss of smell, and loss of taste. Symptoms may begin one to fourteen days after exposure to the virus. At least a third of people who are infected do not develop noticeable symptoms. Of those who develop symptoms noticeable enough to be classified as patients, most (81%) develop mild to moderate symptoms (up to mild pneumonia), while 14% develop severe symptoms (dyspnea, hypoxia, or more than 50% lung involvement on imaging), and 5% develop critical symptoms (respiratory failure, shock, or multiorgan dysfunction). Older people are at a higher risk of developing severe symptoms. Some people continue to experience a range of effects (long COVID) for months after recovery, and damage to organs has been observed. Multi-year studies are underway to further investigate the long-term effects of the disease.


COVID‑19 transmits when infectious particles are breathed in or come into contact with the eyes, nose, or mouth. The risk is highest when people are in close proximity, but small airborne particles containing the virus can remain suspended in the air and travel over longer distances, particularly indoors. Transmission can also occur when people touch their eyes, nose or mouth after touching surfaces or objects that have been contaminated by the virus. People remain contagious for up to 20 days and can spread the virus even if they do not develop symptoms.


Mechanisms of SARS-CoV-2 cytokine storm and complications

Complications may include pneumonia, acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), multi-organ failure, septic shock, and death. Cardiovascular complications may include heart failure, arrhythmias (including atrial fibrillation), heart inflammation, and thrombosis, particularly venous thromboembolism. Approximately 20–30% of people who present with COVID‑19 have elevated liver enzymes, reflecting liver injury.

Neurologic manifestations include seizure, stroke, encephalitis, and Guillain–Barré syndrome (which includes loss of motor functions). Following the infection, children may develop paediatric multisystem inflammatory syndrome, which has symptoms similar to Kawasaki disease, which can be fatal. In very rare cases, acute encephalopathy can occur, and it can be considered in those who have been diagnosed with COVID‑19 and have an altered mental status.

According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, pregnant women are at increased risk of becoming seriously ill from COVID‑19. This is because pregnant women with COVID‑19 appear to be more likely to develop respiratory and obstetric complications that can lead to miscarriage, premature delivery and intrauterine growth restriction.

Fungal infections such as aspergillosis, candidiasis, cryptococcosis and mucormycosis have been recorded in patients recovering from COVID‑19.


COVID‑19 is caused by infection with a strain of coronavirus known as 'Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus 2' (SARS-CoV-2).


20200609 Effect of pandemic containment measures
Without pandemic containment measures – such as social distancing, vaccination, and face masks – pathogens can spread exponentially. This graphic shows how early adoption of containment measures tends to protect wider swaths of the population.

Preventive measures to reduce the chances of infection include getting vaccinated, staying at home, wearing a mask in public, avoiding crowded places, keeping distance from others, ventilating indoor spaces, managing potential exposure durations, washing hands with soap and water often and for at least twenty seconds, practising good respiratory hygiene, and avoiding touching the eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands.

Several COVID-19 vaccines have been approved and distributed in various countries, which have initiated mass vaccination campaigns. Other preventive measures include physical or social distancing, quarantining, ventilation of indoor spaces, use of face masks or coverings in public, covering coughs and sneezes, hand washing, and keeping unwashed hands away from the face.

While work is underway to develop drugs that inhibit the virus, the primary treatment is symptomatic. Management involves the treatment of symptoms through supportive care, isolation, and experimental measures.


Since the outbreak of the COVID‑19 pandemic, scholars have explored the bioethics, normative economics, and political theories of healthcare policies related to the public health crisis. Academics have pointed to the moral distress of healthcare workers, ethics of distributing scarce healthcare resources such as ventilators, and the global justice of vaccine diplomacies. The socio-economic inequalities between genders, races, groups with disabilities, communities, regions, countries, and continents have also drawn attention in academia and the general public.

Effects on other diseases

The use of social distancing and the wearing of surgical masks and similar precautions against COVID‑19 may have caused a drop in the spread of the common cold and the flu.

See also

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