What is Covid?
What Is COVID-19? A coronavirus is a kind of common virus that causes an infection in your nose, sinuses, or upper throat. Most coronaviruses aren't dangerous. In early 2020, after a December 2019 outbreak in China, the World Health Organization identified SARS-CoV-2 as a new type of coronavirus. The outbreak quickly spread around the world. COVID-19 is a disease caused by SARS-CoV-2 that can trigger what doctors call a respiratory tract infection. It can affect your upper respiratory tract (sinuses, nose, and throat) or lower respiratory tract (windpipe and lungs). It spreads the same way other coronaviruses do, mainly through person-to-person contact. Infections range from mild to deadly. SARS-CoV-2 is one of seven types of coronavirus, including the ones that cause severe diseases like Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) and sudden acute respiratory syndrome (SARS). The other coronaviruses cause most of the colds that affect us during the year but aren’t a serious threat for otherwise healthy people. Is there more than one strain of SARS-CoV-2? It’s normal for a virus to change, or mutate, as it infects people. A Chinese study of 103 COVID-19 cases suggests the virus that causes it has done just that. They found two strains, which they named L and S. The S type is older, but the L type was more common in early stages of the outbreak. They think one may cause more cases of the disease than the other, but they’re still working on what it all means. How long will the coronavirus last? It’s too soon to tell how long the pandemic will continue. It depends on many things, including researchers’ work to learn more about the virus, their search for a treatment, the sucess of the vaccines, and the public’s efforts to slow the spread.Symptoms of COVID-19 The main symptoms include:
Shortness of breath
Chills, sometimes with shaking
Loss of smell or taste
The virus can lead to pneumonia, respiratory failure, heart problems, liver problems, septic shock, and death. Many COVID-19 complications may be caused by a condition known as cytokine release syndrome or a cytokine storm. This is when an infection triggers your immune system to flood your bloodstream with inflammatory proteins called cytokines. They can kill tissue and damage your organs. If you notice the following severe symptoms in yourself or a loved one, get medical help right away:
Trouble breathing or shortness of breath
Ongoing chest pain or pressure
Can’t wake up fully
Bluish lips or face
Strokes have also been reported in some people who have COVID-19. Remember FAST:
Face. Is one side of the person’s face numb or drooping? Is their smile lopsided?
Arms. Is one arm weak or numb? If they try to raise both arms, does one arm sag?
Speech. Can they speak clearly? Ask them to repeat a sentence.
Time. Every minute counts when someone shows signs of a stroke. Call 911 right away.
If you’re infected, symptoms can show up in as few as 2 days or as many as 14. It varies from person to person. According to researchers in China, these were the most common symptoms among people who had COVID-19:
Lack of appetite 40%
Body aches 35%
Shortness of breath 31%
Some people who are hospitalized for COVID-19 have also have dangerous blood clots, including in their legs, lungs, and arteries. What to do if you think you have it If you live in or have traveled to an area where COVID-19 is spreading:
If you don’t feel well, stay home. Even if you have mild symptoms like a headache and runny nose, stay in until you’re better. This lets doctors focus on people who are more seriously ill and protects health care workers and people you might meet along the way. You might hear this called self-quarantine. Try to stay in a separate room away from other people in your home. Use a separate bathroom if you can.
Call the doctor if you have trouble breathing. You need to get medical help as soon as possible. Calling ahead (rather than showing up) will let the doctor direct you to the proper place, which may not be your doctor’s office. If you don’t have a regular doctor, call your local board of health. They can tell you where to go for testing and treatment.
Follow your doctor’s advice and keep up with the news on COVID-19. Between your doctor and health care authorities, you’ll get the care you need and information on how to prevent the virus from spreading.
For more information about COVID-19, see our FAQ. How do I know if it’s COVID-19, a cold, or the flu? Symptoms of COVID-19 can be similar to a bad cold or the flu. Your doctor will suspect COVID-19 if:
You have a fever and a cough.
You have been exposed to people who have it within the last 14 days.
Cold vs. Flu vs. Allergies vs. COVID-19SymptomsColdFluAllergiesCOVID-19 (can range from moderate to severe)FeverRareHigh (100-102 F), Can last 3-4 daysNeverCommonHeadacheRareIntenseUncommonCan be presentGeneral aches, painsSlightUsual, often severeNeverCan be presentTirednessMildIntense, starts early, cSometimesCommonLonghaul exhaustionNeverUsual gone in 2-3 weeksNeverCan be presentStuffy/runny noseCommonSometimesCommonHas been reportedSneezingUsualSometimesUsualHas been reportedSore throatCommonCommonSometimesHas been reportedCoughMild to moderateCommon, can become severeSometimesCommonLoss of smell and tasteSometimesSometimesNeverHas been reportedRashRareRareRareCan HappenCan HappenPink EyeCan HappenCan HappenCan HappenCan HappenDiarrheaNeverSometimes in childrenNeverHas been reportedShortness of BreathRareRareRare, except for those with allergic asthmaIn more serious infectionsChest PainRareIn more serious infectionsRareIn more serious infections COVID-19 SYMPTOM CHECKER Find Out if You Have Symptoms of Coronavirus (COVID-19)See what to do about your symptoms and whether to call a doctor Is COVID-19 worse than the flu? Unlike the flu, a lot of people aren’t immune to the coronavirus because it’s so new. If you do catch it, the virus triggers your body to make things called antibodies. Researchers are looking at whether they give you protection against catching it again. The coronavirus also appears to cause higher rates of severe illness and death than the flu. But the symptoms themselves can vary widely from person to person. Is COVID-19 seasonal like the flu? A few lab studies have found that higher temperatures and humidity levels might help slow the spread of the coronavirus. But experts advise caution and say weather changes won’t matter without thorough public health efforts. Also, past flu pandemics have happened year-round.
Causes of the New Coronavirus Researchers aren’t sure what caused it. There’s more than one type of coronavirus. They’re common in people and in animals including bats, camels, cats, and cattle. SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, is similar to MERS and SARS. They all came from bats.Coronavirus Risk Factors Anyone can get COVID-19, and most infections are mild. The older you are, the higher your risk of severe illness. You also a have higher chance of serious illness if you have one of these health conditions:
Chronic kidney disease
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
A weakened immune system because of an organ transplant
Serious heart conditions such as heart failure or coronary artery disease
Sickle cell disease
Type 2 diabetes
Conditions that could lead to severe COVID-19 illness include:
Moderate to severe asthma
Diseases that affect your blood vessels and blood flow to your brain
High blood pressure
A weakened immune system because of a blood or bone marrow transplant, HIV, or medications like corticosteroids
Damaged or scarred lung tissue (pulmonary fibrosis)
Type 1 diabetes
Some children and teens who are in the hospital with COVID-19 have an inflammatory condition that doctors are calling multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children. Doctors think it may be linked to the virus. It causes symptoms similar to those of toxic shock and of Kawasaki disease, a condition that causes inflammation in kids’ blood vessels.Coronavirus Transmission How does the coronavirus spread? SARS-CoV-2, the virus, mainly spreads from person to person. Most of the time, it spreads when a sick person coughs or sneezes. They can spray droplets as far as 6 feet away. If you breathe them in or swallow them, the virus can get into your body. Some people who have the virus don't have symptoms, but they can still spread the virus. You can also get the virus from touching a surface or object the virus is on, then touching your mouth, nose, or possibly your eyes. Most viruses can live for several hours on a surface that they land on. A study shows that SARS-CoV-2 can last for several hours on various types of surfaces:
Copper: 4 hours
Cardboard: up to 24 hours
Plastic or stainless steel: 2 to 3 days
That’s why it’s important to disinfect surfaces to get rid of the virus. Some dogs and cats have tested positive for the virus. A few have shown signs of illness. There’s no evidence that humans can catch this coronavirus from an animal, but it appears it can be passed from humans to animals. What is community spread? Doctors and health officials use this term when they don’t know the source of the infection. With COVID-19, it usually refers to someone who gets the virus even though they haven’t been out of the country or haven’t been exposed to someone who’s traveled abroad or who has COVID-19. In February 2020, the CDC confirmed a COVID-19 infection in California in a person who had not traveled to an affected area or been exposed to someone with the disease. This marked the first instance of community spread in the U.S. It’s likely that person was exposed to someone who was infected but didn’t know it. How fast is it spreading? The number of people infected by SARS-CoV-2 changes every day. See our news story for the latest updates on this developing story. How contagious is the coronavirus? The transmission rate is relatively high. Early research has estimated that one person who has it can spread it to between 2 and 2.5 others. One study found that the rate was higher, with one case spreading to between 4.7 and 6.6 other people. By comparison, one person who has the seasonal flu will pass it to between 1.1 and 2.3 others. The CDC reports there is evidence it can be transmitted if you get within 6 feet of someone who is infectious for a total of 15 minutes throughout a day. It had previously been believed the exposure had to be 15 minutes at a time. We can work to lower the transmission rate by washing hands often, keeping common surfaces clean, limiting contact with other people, and wearing cloth face masks when we can’t stay 6 feet away from others.
Can coronavirus be transmitted through groceries, packages, or food? You’re much more likely to get COVID-19 from another person than from packages, groceries, or food. If you’re in a high-risk group, stay home and use a delivery service or have a friend shop for you. Have them leave the items outside your front door, if you can. If you do your own shopping, wear and cloth face mask and try to stay at least 6 feet away from other shoppers. Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds before and after bringing things into your home. The coronavirus can linger on hard surfaces, so clean and disinfect countertops and anything else your bags have touched. You can wipe down plastic, metal, or glass packaging with soap and water if you want. There’s no evidence that anyone has gotten COVID-19 from food or food containers.Coronavirus Diagnosis Call your doctor or local health department if you think you’ve been exposed and have symptoms like:
Fever of 100 F or higher