The novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is a respiratory illness caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). The disease was named after the December 2019 coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan, China. The virus appears to have originated from bats.
Infected individuals may be asymptomatic or develop mild symptoms similar to those of seasonal influenza. More severe forms of the disease are characterized by acute viral pneumonia and shortness of breath, requiring urgent hospitalization. The infection may also affect the vascular and gastrointestinal systems as well as other organs.
There are a number of COVID-19 vaccines in clinical development. It's expected that a number of these vaccines will receive regulatory approval in early 2021. It may take a year or more to immunize sufficient numbers of people to achieve herd immunity. At this time, the best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to the virus.