Casual readers of the news might think the coronavirus is a new disease, but, in truth, doctors first identified coronaviruses in the 1960s; this is why the latest one, which first surfaced last December in Wuhan City, Hubei Province, China, was called, until recently, the 2019 novel coronavirus. (It's now called SARS-CoV-2.) Though coronaviruses vary in severity, all have the potential to cause respiratory illness. Some are as simple as the common cold, while others are more serious, such as severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), a deadly disease that sickened more than 8,000 people and caused almost 800 deaths before it was contained in 2003.
There are no cures for coronaviruses. So, as is the case whenever a new threat emerges, it’s important to follow specific public health recommendations. Doctors advise taking the same precautions you would to avoid a cold or flu, including meticulous and regular handwashing and being cautious around people who are sick.