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Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) is a virus that causes COVID-19, the respiratory illness responsible for the ongoing pandemic. It was first identified in December 2019 in Wuhan, China, and the World Health Organization declared it a Public Health Emergency of International Concern on January 30, 2020, and a pandemic on March 11, 2020.

SARS-CoV-2 is zoonotic, meaning that it is transmitted from animals to humans. It is thought to have originated from bats, but research is ongoing to determine whether it came directly from bats or through intermediate hosts. It is a single-stranded RNA virus that is contagious in humans, and is related to the SARS-CoV-1 virus that caused the 2002-2004 SARS outbreak


SARS-CoV-2 (false colour in red) around and in epithelial cilia cells of the lungs. (Ehre Lab/UNC School of Medicine). image: sciencealert