Coronaviruses are a family of viruses that commonly affect animals but sometimes affect humans too. They usually attack the upper respiratory tract—nose, sinuses and throat. A coronavirus gets its name from the crown-like spikes on its surface, visible under a microscope (“corona” means crown in Latin). Some types of coronavirus cause mild symptoms like the common cold, while others, like SARS or MERS, are more dangerous.

Scientists are still learning about this new coronavirus that causes a disease known as COVID-19. COVID-19 is also called the “novel” coronavirus because this particular strain has never been seen before.