Coronavirus background and key questions
March 16, 2020

As the COVID-19 virus spreads, world governments implement control strategies

This article is about an emerging and rapidly evolving public health crisis. Case and death counts change daily. If you’re interested in learning the very latest information please consult the World Health Organization or your local governing body.

As we are all aware, an outbreak of respiratory disease caused by a novel coronavirus has now been detected in 176 countries and regions as of March 27, 2020. The virus has been named “severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2)” and the infectious disease it causes has been named coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

On January 30, 2020, the International Health Regulations Emergency Committee of the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the outbreak a “public health emergency of international concern.” On March 11, 2020, the WHO upgraded this to declare COVID-19 a pandemic, defined as the worldwide spread of a new disease.


As of March 27, over 557,000 cases of COVID-19 and more than 25,250 deaths have been reported in 176 countries worldwide to the WHO.

The Clinical Picture

As the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) continues to spread around the world, those who are infected may have little to no symptoms, which has led to the rapidly spreading pandemic. The complete clinical picture is not fully understood. Information so far suggests that most COVID-19 illnesses are mild, and a report out of China indicates serious illness occurs in only 16% of cases. Individuals most susceptible to severe illness appear to be older and with certain underlying health conditions like heart disease, lung disease, and diabetes.

Control Strategies

Right now many countries outside of China are in containment mode, however, we are seeing more and more countries switch into mitigation mode as the disease spreads. These measures include strategies such as social distancing, which limits or restricts people’s ability to congregate in public places such as sporting events, malls, workplaces, and schools. All major sports in the United States have been suspended amid the outbreak, including the NBA, NHL, and MLB. International travel has been discouraged and self-quarantine measures have been recommended for those who may have come into contact with SARS-CoV-2 or those who exhibit symptoms.

Useful Links For Information About COVID-19

Frequently Asked Questions and answers from the WHO

Situation reports from the WHO:

Outbreak updates from the Canadian Government

Learn more about the symptoms associated with COVID-19.

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Recommended readings and resources from Aetion scientists