COVID-19 (summary)

Dr Daniel J Bell and Dr Henry Knipe et al.

This summary article is intended to be used as a quick reference guide. Please see our complete COVID-19 article for more detail. 

COVID-19 (coronavirus disease 2019) is a viral infectious disease caused by SARS-CoV-2 and is currently a World Health Organization (WHO) declared pandemic. As of April 2021, over 120 million people had been infected globally with over 2.5 million deaths 13.

Many people with SARS-CoV-2 infection are asymptomatic 9. Symptoms and signs of COVID-19 are non-specific 1 but in symptomatic individuals most commonly include:

  • fever (85-90%)
  • cough (65-70%) with sputum (30-35%)
  • smell and taste disturbances (50%) 12
  • fatigue (35-40%)
  • shortness of breath (15-20%)

The likelihood of severe illness requiring hospitalization correlates closely with male sex, advanced age and presence of comorbidities. 

  • ~5% admitted patients require ICU admission

Multiple serious sequelae have been reported including:

SARS-CoV-2 is a member of the Betacoronavirus genus, one of the genera of the Coronaviridae family of viruses. SARS-CoV-2 is indirectly zoonotic, but transmission is now primarily interhuman. The closest animal coronavirus by genetic sequence is a bat coronavirus 5. The cause of death is usually respiratory failure secondary to massive alveolar injury.

The primary findings of COVID-19 are those of atypical or organizing pneumonia 2,3. Up to 18% of cases demonstrate normal chest x-rays or CT when mild/early in the disease course 10. Bilateral and/or multilobar involvement is common, more often with a lower zone distribution.

The primary findings on CT in adults have been reported as 2,3,16:

There are several therapeutic approaches: some of them inhibit the replication of the virus, others reduce the inflammatory response, still others inhibit coagulation 17,18.

Treatment is primarily supportive including ventilation for some patients. Dexamethasone has been shown to reduce mortality in ventilated patients or those on oxygen therapy 14.

Several highly-effective vaccines have now received regulatory approval in multiple territories 15

The mortality rate is estimated to be 3.6% 10.

Article information

rID: 75235
System: Chest
Synonyms or Alternate Spellings:
  • Coronavirus disease 2019 (summary)

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Cases and figures

  • Figure 1: SARS-CoV-2 (photo)
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  • Case 1
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  • Case 2
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  • Case 3
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  • Case 4: with rapidly progressive ARDS
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  • Case 5: COVID-19 pneumonia - pediatric
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  • Case 6
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  • Case 7
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  • Case 8
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  • Case 9
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  • Case 10
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  • Case 11
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  • Case 12
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  • Case 13
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  • Case 14
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  • Case 15
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  • Case 16
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  • Case 17
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  • Case 18
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  • Case 19
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