To help with coverage of the new coronavirus disease, called COVID-19, The Associated Press has prepared a guide based on the AP Stylebook and common usage in AP stories.
A family of viruses, some of which can infect people and animals, named for crownlike spikes on their surfaces.
The viruses can cause the common cold or more severe diseases such as SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome), MERS (Middle East respiratory syndrome) and COVID-19, the latter of which first appeared in late 2019 in Wuhan, China.
As of early 2020, phrasing like the new coronavirus or the new virus is acceptable on first reference for COVID-19, though stories should contain a mention of the disease's official name, accompanied by an explanation. COVID-19 is also acceptable on first reference.
In stories, do not refer simply to coronavirus without the article the. Not: She is concerned about coronavirus. Omitting the is acceptable in headlines and in uses such as: He said coronavirus concerns are increasing.
Passages and stories focusing on the science of the disease require sharper distinctions.
COVID-19, which stands for coronavirus disease 2019, is caused by a virus named SARS-CoV-2. When referring specifically to the virus, the COVID-19 virus and the virus that causes COVID-19 are acceptable. But, because COVID-19 is the name of the disease, not the virus, it is not accurate to write a new virus called COVID-19.
SARS is acceptable on first reference for the disease first identified in Asia in 2003. Spell out severe acute respiratory syndrome later in the story.
MERS is acceptable on first reference. Spell out Middle East respiratory syndrome later in the story.
Symptoms of COVID-19 can include fever, cough and breathing trouble. Most develop only mild symptoms. But some people, usually those with other medical complications, develop more severe symptoms, including pneumonia, which can be fatal.
Do not exaggerate the risks presented by any of the three diseases by routinely referring to them as deadly, fatal or the like.