COVID-19 Facts

Last published: Tuesday, April 7, 2020 1:30 pm

Please see the United States CDC and the Maine CDC for the latest public health advisories regarding the COVID-19 pandemic:

Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is a disease with potentially severe or fatal pulmonary and respiratory symptoms caused by the novel SARS-CoV-2 beta coronavirus. First reports of the disease came from Wuhan, China, on December 8, 2019. The infectious virion, SARS-CoV-2, was identified on January 7, 2020. Its complete genome has been sequenced and mutations are being tracked globally. On March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization characterized COVID-19 as a pandemic, having received reports of cases in 114 countries, indicating containment had failed and SARS-CoV-2 was spreading person-to-person globally via community transmission.

As the pandemic unfolds, the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus is mutating. Models predict the novel coronavirus and its descendants will infect tens of millions of people around the world by the end of 2020, with the potential to join flu and the common cold as a permanent human disease. Epidemiological theory predicts that the most successful strains will likely evolve to have a lower death rate than current strains of SARS-CoV-2, which are not yet well adapted to human hosts.

Searches for effective treatments and vaccines are active. Most investigators believe the necessary data to prove efficacy at a high confidence level will not be available until September 2020 for treatments and until June 2021 for vaccines.

Symptoms of COVID-19

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Body aches
  • Lethargy
  • Difficulty breathing (20% of cases)
  • Rapid organ failure leading to death (3% to 4% of cases [high uncertainty])

COVID-19 Disease Burden

Base on preliminary data analyzed by the World Health Organization:

  • 80% of diseased suffer mild symptoms not requiring hospitalization
  • 15% require oxygen
  • 5% require ventilation
  • 3% to 4% [this rate has a large uncertainty] die within 28 days of infection
  • Long-term impact of COVID-19 among those who recover is not yet known, but lung scans of COVID-19 patients show unusual and distinctive patterns.

COVID-19 Articles (General Audience)

COVID-19 Epidemiology

COVID-19 Biology