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Coronavirus (COVID-19): What You Need to Know: WHO

Coronavirus has made headlines across the world, and with cases popping up across the United States every day, medical professionals and students need to be prepared. This guide will serve as a starting point for resources on COVID-19


SARS-CoV-2 is the offical name of the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19.

WHO has provided a page on Global Research on coronavirus disease (COVID-19). 

WHO Global Research on COVID-19

WHO is gathering the latest international multilingual scientific findings and knowledge on COVID-19. The global literature cited in the WHO COVID-19 database is updated daily (Monday through Friday) from searches of bibliographic databases, hand searching, and the addition of other expert-referred scientific articles. This database represents a comprehensive multilingual source of current literature on the topic. While it may not be exhaustive, new research is added regularly. Check out the links below for more information:


Coronaviruses (CoV) are a large family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV)A novel coronavirus (nCoV) is a new strain that has not been previously identified in humans.  

Coronaviruses are zoonotic, meaning they are transmitted between animals and people.  Detailed investigations found that SARS-CoV was transmitted from civet cats to humans and MERS-CoV from dromedary camels to humans. Several known coronaviruses are circulating in animals that have not yet infected humans. 

Common signs of infection include respiratory symptoms, fever, cough, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties. In more severe cases, infection can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure and even death. 

Standard recommendations to prevent infection spread include regular hand washing, covering mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing, thoroughly cooking meat and eggs. Avoid close contact with anyone showing symptoms of respiratory illness such as coughing and sneezing.

Visit WHO's official page on the COVID-19 Outbreak. This page will be updated daily by WHO so be sure to check in frequently for the most up to date information. 

WHO Infographics

Novel Coronavirus Information

How to Protect Yourself Against COVID-19

WHO Characterizes COVID-19 as a Pandemic

Variants of Concern

Tracking SARS-CoV-2 Variants

All viruses change over time, creating new variants of the virus that may either have little to no impact on the virus's properties, or affect how easily it spreads, disease severity, vaccination efficacy, medial intervention success, diagnosis, or public health. 

WHO and other partners work to monitor these variants and track those that present an increased risk to global public health. They have broken these down into Variants of Interest (VOIs), and Variants of Concern (VOCs).

Variants of Interest

VOIs have genome mutations with either known or suspected phenotypic implications (compared to reference isolate), and either:

  • Identified to cause community transmission/cases/clusters or has been detected in multiple countries, 
  • Assessed to be VOI by WHO in consultation with the WHO SARS-CoV-2 Virus Evolution Working Group
Variants of Concern

VOCs meet the definition of VOIs, but have also demonstrated one or more of the listed changed that raise concerns for public health:

  • Increased transmissibility or detrimental change in epidemiology,
  • Increased virulence or change in clinical disease presentation,
  • Decrease in effectiveness of preventative measures or available diagnostics, vaccines, and therapeutics

For more information on how WHO and their partners track, name, and study these variants, please visit the Tracking SARS-CoV-2 Variants page.

WHO Coronavirus Dashboard