In January 2020, the etiologic agent responsible for a cluster of severe pneumonia cases in Wuhan, China, was identified as being a novel betacoronavirus, distinct from SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV. On 11 February 2020, the International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses (ICTV) announced that the virus was named severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). On the same day, WHO named the disease as coronavirus disease COVID-19.
For communication purposes, we will refer the virus as “the virus responsible for COVID-19” or “the COVID-19 virus”. Complete genomic sequences of the COVID-19 virus have been released and different molecular detection protocols developed but not fully validated yet. However, given the current circulation of COVID-19 in the Americas region, the Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO) recommends to Member States to ensure timely identification of suspect cases, collection and shipment of samples to reference laboratories, and implementation of molecular detection protocols, according to the laboratory capacity.