Human coronaviruses were first identified in the mid-1960s. Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses. There are several known coronaviruses that usually only cause mild respiratory disease, such as the common cold. However, at least two coronaviruses cause severe disease — severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) coronavirus and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) coronavirus.

Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) outbreak

Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment fact sheet updated 02.14.20 Opens in new windowOn Feb. 11, 2020, the World Health Organization announced an official name for 2019 novel coronavirus that is causing the current outbreak of coronavirus disease, COVID-19. 

COVID-19 is a virus identified as the cause of an outbreak of respiratory illness first identified in Wuhan, China early December 2019. Chinese authorities identified the new coronavirus, which has resulted in thousands of confirmed cases in China, including cases outside Wuhan, with additional cases being identified in a growing number of countries internationally. Additional suspected cases in other countries, including the United States and Colorado, are being investigated by public health agencies. See up to date information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO).


Current symptoms from the virus reported for patients with COVID-19 have included mild to severe respiratory illness with fever1, cough, and difficulty breathing. Review the CDC’s site to learn more about COVID-19 symptoms.

What we don’t know

This is an ongoing investigation to determine more about the outbreak. This is a rapidly evolving situation and information will be updated as it becomes available from the CDC. It is too soon to know how severe COVID-19 is compared to other coronaviruses or how easily it can spread between humans.

General questions? 

For answers to general questions about the COVID-19, call the state’s Colorado Health Emergency Line for Public Information (COHELP) hotline at 303-389-1687 or 1-877-462-2911 for up-to-date public health information. You can also review the Colorado Department of Public health and Environment’s COVID-19 fact sheet

How is the virus spread?

Many of the patients in the pneumonia outbreak caused by COVID-19 in Wuhan, China had some link to a large seafood and live animal market, suggesting animal-to-person spread. However, a growing number of patients reportedly have not had exposure to animal markets, indicating person-to-person spread is occurring.

Am I at risk? 

The risk to individuals is dependent on exposure. At this time, some people will have an increased risk of infection, for example healthcare workers caring for COVID-19 patients and other close contacts. For the general American public, who are unlikely to be exposed to this virus, the immediate health risk from COVID-19 is considered low. The goal of the ongoing U.S. public health response is to prevent sustained spread of COVID-19 in this country. This is a rapidly evolving situation and the risk assessment may change daily. The latest updates are available on CDC’s COVID-19 webpage

What can I do to protect myself and others?

CDC always recommends everyday preventive actions to help prevent the spread of respiratory viruses, including:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.

Information for travelers

January 28, 2020 - CDC Media Statement: CDC Advises Travelers to Avoid All Nonessential Travel to China. Refer to the CDC’s travel notice for updates.

Guidance for Healthcare Professionals 

Resources and guidance for healthcare professionals on human infections with COVID-19 can be found on the CDPHE webpage for Healthcare Providers and on the CDC webpage for Healthcare Professionals. Healthcare professions can also refer to the Colorado Medical Society’s article, Coronavirus: What physicians need to know, published Friday, Feb. 7.

To report a suspected case or for additional guidance, call either the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s Disease Reporting Line at 303-692-2700 or our Disease Reporting Line at 303-220-9200 and ask for communicable disease. For general questions, call COHELP at 303-389-1687 or 1-877-462-2911.