Coronaviruses are a large family of respiratory viruses that can cause illness in people and animals. In rare cases, coronaviruses that circulate among animals can evolve and infect humans. In turn, these infections can easily spread from person-to-person as was the case with Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV) and Middle-East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV).
An outbreak of the novel (new) coronavirus was first reported in December 2019 when cases of viral pneumonia with unknown origin were confirmed in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China. Because of its similarity to SARS-CoV, the virus has been named: Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). This virus causes the disease referred to as COVID-19 - Coronavirus disease 2019. Similar to other coronaviruses SARS-CoV-2 is suspected to have come from animals, potentially bats.