Fact Check - COVID-19 is not a common cold

Update Sep.8, 2021: This article has been updated to add more recent examples of the claim being addressed, and the description amended accordingly. The first and second paragraphs were corrected so they refer to the virus as SARS-CoV-2, rather than COVID-19. The second paragraph was updated to reflect the total death count reported by the World Health Organization as of Sept. 8, 2021. A quote from Stanford Children’s Health has also been updated.

People on social media have shared a photo of the page of a book that gives “common cold” as an example of a condition caused by “coronaviruses”, apparently with the intent of showing COVID-19 is merely a common cold ( here  , here  ). This is misleading.

The virus that causes COVID-19 is called SARS-CoV-2, which is a new, specific strain of the coronavirus, as opposed to other existing strains of the coronavirus family which can cause a common cold.

The common cold is usually mild, lasts between 1-2 weeks and includes a sore throat followed by runny nose and congestion, and finally a cough (here). COVID-19, the disease caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus, results in symptoms including difficulty breathing, fever and a dry cough (here ). Some patients develop pneumonia and require hospitalization. If the pneumonia becomes more severe, it may be fatal. As of Sept. 8, 2021 the World Health Organization (WHO) counted 4,582,338 deaths globally due to COVID-19 (, here).

The World Health Organizations says: "Coronaviruses (CoV) are a large family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV). The most recently discovered coronavirus causes coronavirus disease COVID-19." (here)

Stanford Children’s Health further explains, “COVID-19 is caused by a novel coronavirus. That means it's a new type that has not been seen in people before.” (here)


False. COVID-19, the disease caused by SARS-CoV-2, the new human coronavirus, is not the same as a common cold.

This article was produced by the Reuters Fact Check team. Read more about our fact checking work  here .