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COVID-19 Pandemic: What You Need To Know

Project HOPE has mounted a global response to COVID-19, focusing on equipping frontline health care workers with personal protective equipment and training them with the skills they need. Learn more about how you can help.

COVID-19 is one of the gravest threats to global health in our lifetimes.

Project HOPE has mounted a global response to help slow the spread of COVID-19, which has now infected more than 140 million people around the world and killed over 3 million.

What you need to know

How many people have been infected by COVID-19?

It is hard to know the true number of people who have been infected since symptoms can be mild or undetectable, but at least 140 million cases have been confirmed. The true number of cases is likely to be much higher. For a reliable up-to-the-minute map of COVID-19 cases around the world, visit the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center.

What is Project HOPE doing to help?

As doctors and nurses around the world fight the virus’s spread, Project HOPE is mounting a global response to provide lifesaving support on the front lines. To date, HOPE has distributed 14 million pieces of personal protective equipment, provided training for over 98,000 health workers, and reached over 150 countries.

Our strategy focuses on providing lifesaving protective gear in high-risk areas, training health workers to recognize and treat COVID-19, deploying medical volunteers to provide surge staffing, and helping health systems around the world ensure continuity of health services.

How did COVID-19 begin?

In December 2019, a new respiratory illness began to spread throughout Wuhan, China, a city of 11 million people in Hubei province. The virus, known as COVID-19, quickly infected tens of thousands of people over the ensuing weeks. China imposed major restrictions on travel and work, and by the end of February, cases of COVID-19 had slowed inside the country while spiking in other countries including South Korea, Italy, and Iran.

In March, the World Health Organization recognized the breakout as a global pandemic — the first since 2009.

Who is most at risk?

Certain groups are more at risk of COVID-19 than others, including older adults and those with compromised immune systems. People who have chronic medical conditions like heart disease, diabetes, and lung disease are also more at risk.

The risk of getting seriously ill or dying from COVID-19 can vary depending on several factors, including age, ethnicity, access to health care, socioeconomic status and underlying health conditions.

Young people are not immune from risk, however. Americans of all ages have been sickened by the virus, and younger adults make up a large percentage of coronavirus hospitalizations in the U.S. Also, even though young people are at a low mortality risk from the virus, they can carry it — often without knowing it or showing symptoms. This reinforces the importance of social distancing while the virus spreads.

What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

Patients with COVID-19 experience mild to severe respiratory illness, with symptoms including fever, coughing, and shortness of breath. Other symptoms may include aches and pains, nasal congestion, runny nose, sore throat, or diarrhea. It is possible to have COVID-19 without showing symptoms.

Most people recover from the disease without needing special treatment, though older people and those with compromised immune systems are more at risk of falling seriously ill.

How is COVID-19 different from flu?

Influenza and COVID-19 share a number of similarities and can present in the same ways. Both of them can cause fever, cough, body aches, and can lead to pneumonia. They are also both contagious and can spread from person to person through coughing or sneezing.

There are some key differences between the two, however. For one, they are caused by different viruses. Also, while flu symptoms often come on quickly, COVID-19 symptoms may be more gradual and can even take over a week to present. COVID-19 symptoms can also include loss of taste or smell. Severe illness and lung injury are more frequent with COVID-19, and the mortality rate is higher.

The best thing you can do to protect yourself from COVID-19 is to get vaccinated.

What is a novel coronavirus?

A novel coronavirus is a new kind of coronavirus that has not been previously identified. Coronaviruses usually cause upper-respiratory tract illnesses like the common cold, though some can grow serious.

Most people contract some sort of coronavirus during their lives. Human coronaviruses were first discovered in the 1960s, and seven of them can infect people. SARS was a coronavirus that killed 774 people in 2002–03, while MERS is a coronavirus that has killed 861 people since 2012.

When was the last time we had a global pandemic?

COVID-19 is the first global pandemic since the 2009 H1N1 “swine flu” outbreak. The 2014 Ebola outbreak in West Africa and the 2016 Zika virus outbreak were both categorized as international emergencies.

H1N1 was an influenza outbreak that infected about 60 million people in the United States from April 2009 – April 2010. It’s estimated that about 11–21% of the global population contracted the virus, and somewhere between 151,000–575,000 people died.

What are some reliable sources of information to follow?

For up-to-date numbers about COVID-19 cases around the world, see the Johns Hopkins University Coronavirus Resource Center.

For information about COVID-19 cases in the U.S., visit the CDC.

The New York Times has made all its coverage about the coronavirus outbreak free and available at their website.

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