Short description

Coronaviruses are a family of RNA viruses that can infect both animals and humans. In humans they mainly cause respiratory tract diseases. They can run like harmless colds, but can also be fatal.


Detailed description

The name is due to the characteristic, wreath-like appearance of corona viruses (Latin "corona": wreath, crown). Corona viruses are also the cause of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and MERS, which stands for Middle East Respiratory Syndrome. During the first SARS epidemic (SARS-CoV-1) in 2002 and 2003, when a zoonosis caused a virus transmission to humans - presumably passed on from bats - 774 people died worldwide, according to the WHO. The new coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, which was first detected in China at the end of 2019, can cause the disease COVID-19. The disease can be asymptomatic or mild, but it can also take a severe course and lead to death. The lethality within the COVID-19 pandemic has not yet been conclusively clarified. Vaccines and antiviral drugs against COVID-19 are under development – also at DZIF.

You can find up-to-date information and behaviour rules concerning COVID-19/SARS-CoV-2 here:

Word Health Organization (WHO)

European Centre for Desease Prevention and Control (ECDC)

German Federal Government

Information on vaccine development and more (Paul-Ehrlich-Institut)