CoVE Package: COVID-19 Vaccine Education
The importance of the COVID-19 vaccine for individual and societal health
6. What is COVID-19?
COVID-19 is a respiratory disease caused by SARS-CoV-2, a new coronavirus discovered in 2019.1
It is very infectious. By November 2022, there had been over 636 million confirmed cases, and 6.5 million deaths, worldwide.2
What are the symptoms?
Common symptoms are cough, headache and a sore throat. Some people may lose their sense of taste or smell, have a fever, feel very tired, have aching muscles. Others have a runny nose or diarrhoea and vomiting. COVID-19 symptoms are often very similar to symptoms of colds or flu-type illnesses.
Many people only have mild or moderate symptoms. Some have no symptoms at all (‘asymptomatic’), but are still infectious. A small number of people develop severe disease which may require hospitalisation or admission to intensive care.
In severe cases, COVID-19 can progress to sepsis, thromboembolism (blood clots) and damage to the heart, kidneys and liver.3
Who can catch it?
Older people and people who have pre-existing health conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, obesity or cancer are much more likely to become severely ill with the virus, but young healthy people can also get very ill and can die from it.4
About 1 in 10 people are still unwell three months after they catch COVID-19. This includes young, fit people, those who were only mildly unwell, and those who were previously in very good health.