What is Coronavirus Disease?

According to the National Institute of Health (NIH), Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that usually cause mild to moderate upper-respiratory tract illnesses, like the common cold, in people. However, three times in the 21st century, coronavirus outbreaks have emerged from animal reservoirs to cause severe disease and global transmission concerns.

Three of the coronaviruses can have more serious outcomes in people, and those diseases are SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome), MERS (Middle East respiratory syndrome), and COVID-19, which emerged in December 2019 from China. A global effort is underway to contain its spread. COVID-19 is caused by the coronavirus known as SARS-CoV-2.

Thanks to research investments into the SARS and MERS outbreaks, NIAID scientists and grantees are better prepared to develop diagnostics, therapeutics, and vaccines against COVID-19. Included in those projects are basic research to understand how the virus infects cells and causes disease, adapting platforms used to develop diagnostic tests and vaccines, and evaluating treatments such as broad-spectrum antivirals and potentially monoclonal antibodies.

For more information, visit the National Institute of Health website.

In January 2020, a novel coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, was identified as the causative agent of an outbreak of viral pneumonia centered around Wuhan, Hubei, China. That disease is now called COVID-19. The virus has caused a widespread outbreak throughout China, with exported cases occurring in four other continents, including the United States.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has developed a test to diagnose COVID-19 in respiratory and serum samples from clinical specimens. NIAID also is accelerating efforts to develop additional diagnostic tests for COVID-19. These tests would help facilitate preclinical studies and aid in the development of medical countermeasures.

For more information, visit the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases website.

Coronavirus Disease and PPE

Personal protective equipment (PPE) refers to protective clothing, helmets, gloves, face shields, goggles, facemasks and/or respirators or other equipment designed to protect the wearer from injury or the spread of infection or illness.

PPE is commonly used in health care settings such as hospitals, doctor’s offices and clinical labs. When used properly, PPE acts as a barrier between infectious materials such as viral and bacterial contaminants and your skin, mouth, nose, or eyes (mucous membranes). The barrier has the potential to block transmission of contaminants from blood, body fluids, or respiratory secretions. PPE may also protect patients who are at high risk for contracting infections through a surgical procedure or who have a medical condition, such as, an immunodeficiency, from being exposed to substances or potentially infectious material brought in by visitors and healthcare workers. When used properly and with other infection control practices such as hand-washing, using alcohol-based hand sanitizers, and covering coughs and sneezes, it minimizes the spread of infection from one person to another. Effective use of PPE includes properly removing and disposing of contaminated PPE to prevent exposing both the wearer and other people to infection.

Face Masks

N95 respirators and surgical masks (face masks) are examples of personal protective equipment that are used to protect the wearer from airborne particles and from liquid contaminating the face. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) also regulate N95 respirators.

Gloves (Medical Grade)

Medical gloves are examples of personal protective equipment that are used to protect the wearer and/or the patient from the spread of infection or illness during medical procedures and examinations. Medical gloves are one part of an infection-control strategy.

Medical gloves are disposable and include examination gloves, surgical gloves, and medical gloves for handling chemotherapy agents (chemotherapy gloves). These gloves are regulated by the FDA as Class I reserved medical devices that require a 510(k) premarket notification. FDA reviews these devices to ensure that performance criteria such as leak resistance, tear resistance and biocompatibility are met.