Fast Facts: The SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19 Outbreak

Fast Facts: The SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19 Outbreak

SARS-CoV-2, previously known as the 2019-nCoV, is the name for a particular type of virus and a more specific type of coronavirus first reported to affect a cluster of people in Wuhan City, China in late 2019 and has been the particular pathogen behind the 2019-2020 COVID-19 outbreak.

What is the Novel Coronavirus? Where did it Come From? How does it Affect People? What are the Signs and Symptom?

Below are critical pointers about SARS-CoV-2:

• The novel coronavirus is a positive-sense, single-stranded RNA virus belonging to the coronavirus family of group 2B with at least 70 percent similarity with SARS-CoV. It also closely resembles four bat coronaviruses.

• Several reports in December 2019 described an increasing number of people with pneumonia of unknown origin. These individuals were stallholders who worked at the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market in Wuhan City.

• Chinee scientists successfully sequenced the virus isolated from a patient on 7 January 2020. The sequence became available to the World Health Organization on 12 January 2020. The WHO recommended the temporary name “2019-nCoV.”

• The International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses introduced the name “severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2” or SARS-CoV-2 on 11 February 2020 based on the 2015 WHO naming guidelines.

• Like other coronaviruses, it is an enveloped virus with a positive-sense single-stranded RNA genome, a nucleocapsid of helical symmetry, and a large pleomorphic spherical particles with bulbous surface projections that form a corona around particles

• The Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market is a wholesale animal and fish market with about 1000 stalls selling butchered and live chickens, cats, pheasants, bats, marmots, venomous snakes, spotted deer, as well as the organs of rabbits and other wild animals.

• Scientists believe that the novel coronavirus came from an animal source. Note that coronaviruses circulate chiefly among animals. Other coronaviruses that jumped from animals to humans are SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV.

• The associated diseases was initially called 2019-nCoV Acute Respiratory Disease or 2019-nCoV ARD. However, on 11 February 2020, WHO officially named the associated disease as coronavirus disease 2019 or COVID-19.

• Those infected with the virus may either be asymptomatic or have symptoms. Hence, instead of naming the associated disease as SARS-2, COVID-19 is a more suitable naming.

• Clinical signs and symptoms of COVID-2019 include coronavirus fever, cough, tightness of the chest, and difficulty with breathing. Some chest scans indicated inflamed and fluid-filled lungs.

• Note that that scientists have confirmed human-to-human transmission of the novel coronavirus. There are several confirmed cases of infected patients outside Wuhan and China as early as January 2020 alone.


  • Cohen, J. & Normile, D. 2020. “New SARS-like Virus in China Triggers Alarm.” Science. 367(6475): 234-235. DOI: 1126/science.367.6475.234
  • Hoffmann, E. 2020. “Wuhan Coronavirus Facts: Origin, Description, and Symptoms.” Profolus. Available online.
  • Hui, D. S. et al. 2020. “The Continuing 2019-nCoV Epidemic Threat of Novel Coronaviruses to Global Health – The Latest 2019 Novel Coronavirus Outbreak in Wuhan, China.” International Journal of Infectious Disease. 91(2020: 264-266. DOI: 1016/j.ijid.2020.01.009
  • Imai, N., Dorigatti, I., Cori, A., Riley, S., & Ferguson, N. M. 2020, January 17. “Estimating the Potential Total Number of Novel Coronavirus Cases in Wuhan City, China.” Imperial College London News. Imperial College, MRC Centre for Global Infectious Disease Analysis. Available online
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