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COVID-19 is a new coronavirus, adding to six other known coronaviruses. The current outbreak is partly a consequence of how human beings treat the world, and it won’t be the last. The best way to mitigate such outbreaks is to build a strong global health system. Alanna Shaikh, a specialist in global health systems, addresses the topic of COVID-19 specifically and outbreak management in general. Learn how governments and individuals should respond to the current outbreak and others sure to come, in this detailed TED Talk.


The COVID-19 outbreak involves a new, hard-to-track coronavirus that affects the lungs.

COVID-19 is a new type of coronavirus, a category of viruses that wield their spike-covered – or crown-topped – surfaces to invade cells. Coronaviruses spread from animals to people, which makes them hard to eradicate. COVID-19 likely jumped to humans at a wild-animal market in Wuhan, China, and counts among the coronaviruses that spread from person to person.

Until December 2019, the world had seen only six coronaviruses, including SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) and MERS (Middle Eastern respiratory syndrome). The novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19 is the seventh. Like these two respiratory syndromes, COVID-19 attacks the lungs. Symptoms range from a dry cough to life-threatening viral pneumonia. Because many infected people, especially children, experience mild symptoms, they typically don’t seek care. The spread of COVID-19 is hard to track.

[Editors Note: Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is an infectious viral respiratory disease caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), also known as “novel coronavirus...

About the Speaker

Alanna Shaikh is a global health consultant who specializes in health systems’ response to crises, including assessing Ebola treatment centers and examining tuberculosis contagions in health facilities.

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