Coronavirus Explained

Illustration of COVID-19 created by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

By Giavana Maldonado, age 13

COVID-19 is a virus caused by the novel coronavirus which causes respiratory illness in its hosts. There are many types of coronavirus, some of which cause diseases in humans. The first reported case of this coronavirus was in Wuhan, China, in December 2019; health officials are still tracing the exact source. The World Health Organization declared the coronavirus a pandemic because it was detected in people all over the world. 

A virus is an infectious agent that takes over the enzymes and materials in a host cell and makes copies of itself. Viruses can only survive in a living cell. You need a vaccine to fight viruses, not antibiotics. There is no vaccine for COVID-19 yet, but there are ways we can all stop it from spreading.

Coronavirus can spread from person to person through respiratory droplets. This can happen when someone sneezes or coughs or is within six feet of another person. You can also get the virus from touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching your mouth, nose or eyes.

Coronavirus is not the first pandemic that humans have experienced. In 1347, the Black Death killed half the population of Europe. Venetians stayed indoors for 40 days when they figured out that it spread when people were close together. They called it quarantino, and this is where the word “quarantine” comes from. The Spanish flu, an influenza pandemic which first appeared in 1918, is the most similar to the coronavirus because it spread quickly from people moving from place to place. 

We can learn from how these pandemics were handled in the past to help us slow the spread of coronavirus now. For example, the Black Death taught us that quarantining is one solution. We can practice social distancing, like avoiding crowds and staying home if you can, because we know from past pandemics that it stops the spread of viruses.


Respiratory (illness): A type of disease that affects the lungs.
Pandemic: A disease or virus occurring all over the world.
Enzyme: Enzymes are biological molecules that speed up the rate of chemical reactions that take place within cells. They are vital for life and serve a wide range of important functions in the body.

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