What is Coronavirus SARS-COV-2?

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Coronavirus is a family of viruses that normally only affects animals. Some can also be transmitted from animals to people, causing respiratory problems that generally have mild symptoms.

SARS-CoV-2 is a new type of coronavirus that can affect people. It was first detected in December 2019, in Wuhan City, Hubei Province, China. In 80% of cases it produces only mild respiratory symptoms and patients recover from the disease without the need for hospital treatment. About 15% develop severe disease and require oxygen, and 5% become critically ill and require intensive care.

The virus is known as Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 and the disease that it causes is COVID-19.

How is Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 transmitted?

The virus is mainly spread via respiratory droplets between people who are in close contact.  These particles have different sizes, from the largest respiratory droplets to the smallest, known as aerosols. 

Standing man coughing

Respiratory droplets are generated when an unwell person coughs or sneezes. These secretions infect another person if they enter into direct contact with their nose, eyes or mouth. This is why it is important to cover your mouth with tissues or the inner elbow when coughing, and to wash hands frequently. This type of contagion is more likely if someone is in close contact (less than 1 metre distance) with an infected person. 

Gotas. Aerosoles.

Aerosols. Transmission via aerosols can occur particularly in inside spaces, places with a lot of people or where there is poor ventilation. If there are infected people in these spaces for a long time, the respiratory micro-drops known as aerosols can remain in the atmosphere and infect other people in the room, even if they are not particularly close to an infected person. This may occur in gatherings of family or friends, restaurants, exercise classes, offices or other places, especially when masks are not used, if the number of people is not limited or if the space is not properly ventilated. More studies are being carried out to better understand the conditions under which transmission via aerosol occurs.   

persona en la mesa comiendo

Surfaces. According to the latest World Health Organisation (WHO) report, no conclusive evidence has been found that the coronavirus is spread through contact with man-made surfaces such as keyboards, doorknobs or handrails. Laboratory studies have NOT concluded that the virus can survive for two to three days at a temperature of 37 degrees Celsius on materials such as glass, cloth, metal, plastic or paper. Although the coronavirus is not known to be transmitted via surfaces, other types of viruses could still be harboured on these. For this reason, regular disinfection of surfaces is emphasised. 

Two people, one speaking at a distance from the other

The transmission of the virus in enclosed spaces is easy, so a minimum safe distance of 1.5 metres from other people should be maintained to reduce the risk of infection. It is also necessary to ventilate these spaces and always wear a mask. The mask should be cleaned and stored properly to ensure its effectiveness, and discarded when necessary. In open spaces, transmission is less likely, but masks should still be worn when the minimum distance of 1.5 metres between people cannot be maintained.


The incubation period is 5 to 7 days, but may be as long as 14 days.

Which sectors of the population are at higher risk?

Elderly man and woman with cane

Older people.

Glucometer and a hand with a finger in which the lancet has been inserted to measure diabetes levels.

People with chronic illnesses, such as heart disease, lung disease, or immunity problems.

Substantiated information by:

Antoni Trilla
Eduard Vieta Pascual
Josep Maria Peri
Maica Rubinat
Mariona Violan

Published: 12 March 2020
Updated: 12 March 2020


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