Coronavirus Outbreaks


COVID-19 is from the coronavirus family, which includes viruses that can cause the common cold and serious illnesses such as the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and the Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS).

2019 – COVID-19 is a new coronavirus that is believed to have originated in Wuhan, China. By earlly May 2020, COVID-19 had spread to 212 countries and territories, infected more than 4 million people and resulted in more than 270,000 deaths.

POSSIBLE ORIGIN: Scientists worldwide now say the virus likely originated in bats. Although researchers aren’t sure yet, they believe COVID-19 passed from bats through an intermediary animal before infecting humans. Many of the earliest cases were linked to a live animal market in Wuhan, China, leading experts to suggest the virus was transmitted through more exotic animals such as pangolins or cat-like civets. The United States also is investigating the possibility that the virus was accidentally allowed to escape from a Wuhan laboratory that was studying coronaviruses.

2012 – MERS was first reported in Saudi Arabia in September 2012 and has since spread to 27 countries. Some people infected with MERS coronavirus develop severe acute respiratory illness, including fever, cough and shortness of breath. Through January 2020, the World Health Organization confirmed 2,519 MERS cases and 866 deaths. About 80% of the cases were diagnosed in Saudi Arabia.

POSSIBLE ORIGIN: MERS is a coronavirus believed to have originated in bats. Humans, however, are typically infected through contact with camels.

2003 – SARS was first reported in Asia in 2003 before spreading to a total of 29 countries. The SARS epidemic resulted in 8,096 people becoming infected and led to 774 deaths.

POSSIBLE ORIGIN: Chinese scientists in 2017 traced the SARS coronavirus through the intermediary of civets to cave-dwelling horseshoe bats in Yunnan province, China.



Aglobal pandemic of respiratory disease spreading from person to person was caused by a novel (new) coronavirus that originated in Wuhan, China. Named coronavirus disease 2019, it is more commonly known by the abbreviation COVID-19.

The virus causes mild to severe respiratory illness. In severe cases, it can be fatal. Although COVID-19 can infect people of all ages, those most at risk of serious illness are 65 and older or have underlying health conditions, such as chronic lung disease, diabetes or serious heart conditions, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.