What is COVID-19?

Peter Dobranowski
COVID-19 is a new type of coronavirus that is infecting people around the world. Coronaviruses are very common, and typically cause coughs and colds. In rare cases, coronaviruses can cause severe infections like SARS.

In December 2019, there was a novel coronavirus called SARS-CoV-2. Novel means it has never been seen in humans. In people who get infected by the virus, there is a range of illness, and the illness that you get from the virus is called COVID-19 for COrona VIrus Disease-2019.

Watch the 2-minute video below to learn from an expert gastroenterologist about what coronaviruses are, including COVID-19.

important terms and definitions

Physical distancing (social distancing)

No large groups icon
  • Avoid crowded places and non-essential gatherings
  • Avoid common greetings, such as handshakes or hugs
  • Limit contact with people at higher risk, which means people who are immune-suppressed
  • Keep at least two meters or more apart
  • Visit our Guidance section for more on physical distancing


Proper hand washing
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for a minimum of 20 seconds, or with alcohol-based sanitizer with 60% concentration of alcohol or higher
  • Cough/sneeze into a tissue (disposing immediately) or the bend of your arm, and not your hands
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands


Proper hand washing
  • Pay attention to yourself for 14 days and watch for symptoms of COVID-19
  • Avoid crowded places and increase personal space from others


  • If you have no symptoms, but travelled or was in contact with somebody with COVID-19
  • Stay at home and monitor yourself for symptoms of COVID-19 for 14 days
  • Avoid contact with others
  • You can still go outside as long as you stay two meters or more from everybody else


  • If you have symptoms, are diagnosed with COVID-19, or waiting are for test results to confirm whether or not you have COVID-19
  • Stay home
  • Avoid all contact with others (even family members, if possible)

Watch the 3-minute video below to learn directly from an expert gastroenterologist about terms you need to know to help you stay informed during the COVID-19 pandemic.


More information is available from the Government of Canada

  • Canada has among the highest incidence rates of Crohn's and colitis in the world.
  • 1 in 140 Canadians lives with Crohn’s or colitis.
  • Families new to Canada are developing these diseases for the first time.
  • Incidence of Crohn’s in Canadian kids under 10 has doubled since 1995.
  • People are most commonly diagnosed before age 30.