COVID-19 Facts

What is coronavirus?

  • It is a virus: a very tiny organism that infects a host to replicate and can cause disease.
  • COVID-19 is the illness caused by a novel virus in the Coronavirus family, named SARS-CoV-2. Prior to December 2019, it had not been seen in humans before.
  • SARS-CoV-2 causes respiratory (breathing) illnesses on a spectrum, from a cold to pneumonia.

What is a pandemic?

  • A worldwide spread of a new contagious disease.
  • Affects a large proportion of the population.
  • Most people do not have immunity.

How does it spread?

  • Via respiratory droplets or aerosols which travel furthest when an infected person coughs or sneezes.
  • From person to person, with transmission more likely when standing within approximately 6 feet of an infected person.
  • In rare cases, after touching a contaminated surface and then touching your eyes, nose or mouth.
  • Airborne transmission beyond 6 feet is possible in enclosed spaces with poor ventilation such as a gym or a restaurant, especially when talking loudly, breathing heavily, or singing.
  • It can also be spread by people who are not showing in any symptoms (“asymptomatic”).
  • More info here.

What are the symptoms?

  • Fever or chills, cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, fatigue, sore throat, muscle or body aches, headache, new loss of taste or smell, congestion or runny nose, nausea or vomiting, and diarrhea. (Note: This list does not include all possible symptoms. Older adults and people who have severe underlying medical conditions like heart or lung disease or diabetes seem to be at higher risk for developing more serious complications from COVID-19 illness. It is also possible to be infected with SARS-CoV-2 and be asymptomatic.)
  • EMERGENCY SIGNS: Trouble breathing, persistent pain or pressure in the chest, new confusion, inability to wake or stay awake, pale, gray, or blue-colored skin, lips, or nail beds, depending on skin tone.

How long is the time period between catching the virus and showing symptoms (incubation period)?

  • On average: 4-5 days, though the time period can be shorter or longer.
  • 97.5% of people infected with SARS-CoV-2 who have symptoms will do so within 11.5 days of SARS-CoV-2 exposure.

How sick are people getting?

  • Some people are infected but do not show symptoms, or have very mild symptoms.
  • Approximately 4 out of 5 of people recover after illness without needing special treatment (though they can have very unpleasant symptoms while they are sick).
  • Approximately 1 in 5 or 6 people get severely unwell, have trouble breathing and need hospital care.
  • Some people, even after mild disease, may experience post-COVID conditions. Post-COVID conditions are a wide range of new, returning, or ongoing health problems people can experience four or more weeks after first being infected with the virus that causes COVID-19.
  • Post-COVID conditions can present as different types and combinations of health problems for different lengths of time.

What should I do if I feel unwell?

  • If you are sick with COVID-19 or think you might have COVID-19, get tested. Ask your doctor about different testing options. You can also visit your state or local health department’s website to look for the latest local information on testing sites or options.
  • While waiting for test results, you should stay away from others, including staying apart from those living in your household if possible.
  • Most people with COVID-19 have mild illness and can recover at home without medical care. Do not leave your home, except to get medical care. Do not visit public areas.
  • Take care of yourself. Get rest and stay hydrated. Take over-the-counter medicines, such as acetaminophen, to help you feel better.
  • Avoid public transportation, ride-sharing, and taxis.
  • As much as possible, stay in a specific room and away from other people and pets in your home. If possible, you should use a separate bathroom. If you need to be around other people or animals in or outside of the home, wear a mask.
  • Tell those who you came in close contact with that they may have been exposed to COVID-19. An infected person can spread COVID-19 starting 48 hours (or 2 days) before having any symptoms or testing positive. By letting your close contacts know they may have been exposed to COVID-19, you are helping to protect everyone.
  • Stay in touch with your doctor. Call before you get medical care. If you have trouble breathing, or have any other emergency warning signs, or if you think it is an emergency, call 911 or go to the ER.

Who is high-risk?

  • Older adults, especially older unvaccinated adults.
  • People with pre-existing medical conditions, such as heart disease, lung disease, cancer, diabetes, chronic kidney disease, and high blood pressure. For more information on the pre-existing medical conditions, click here.
  • People undergoing treatments that weaken immune system: cancer, autoimmune diseases.
  • Pregnant and recently pregnant people.

Are children at risk?

  • Children (<18 years old) can be infected with the virus that causes COVID-19 and can get sick with COVID-19.
  • Most children with COVID-19 have mild symptoms or they may have no symptoms at all. Fewer children have been sick with COVID-19 compared to adults.
  • Babies younger than 1 year and children with certain underlying medical conditions may be more likely to have serious illness from COVID-19.
  • Multisystem inflammatory syndrome (MIS-C) is a very rare but serious complication in children that is linked to COVID-19 infection.

How can I protect myself and my community?

  • Get vaccinated! COVID-19 vaccines are safe, effective, and free. For more information on the COVID-19 vaccines, click here.
  • In general, you do not need to wear a mask in outdoor settings. In areas with high numbers of COVID-19 cases, consider wearing a mask in crowded outdoor settings and for activities with close contact with others who are not fully vaccinated.
  • People who have a condition or are taking medications that weaken their immune system may not be fully protected even if they are fully vaccinated. They should continue to take all precautions recommended for unvaccinated people, including wearing a well-fitted mask, until advised otherwise by their healthcare provider.
  • If you are fully vaccinated, to maximize protection from the COVID variants and prevent possibly spreading it to others, wear a mask indoors in public if you are in an area of substantial or high transmission.
  • Stay home if sick. Disinfect frequently used surfaces. Clean your mobile devices such as phones.
  • Cough or sneeze into your elbow or a tissue, then throw this tissue away.
  • Wash your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds regularly before eating or after being outside. Use alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap is unavailable.
  • Do not touch your eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Being in crowds indoors like in restaurants, bars, fitness centers, or movie theaters puts you at higher risk for COVID-19. Avoid indoor spaces that do not offer fresh air from the outdoors as much as possible. If indoors, bring in fresh air by opening windows and doors, if possible.
  • Consider getting the flu shot and, if eligible, the pneumococcal vaccine — this will not prevent COVID-19 but can help prevent illnesses with similar symptoms.

Is there a treatment?

  • The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved one drug, remdesivir (Veklury), to treat COVID-19.
  • Treatments outside of the hospital include
    • Taking medications, like acetaminophen or ibuprofen, to reduce fever
    • Drinking water to stay hydrated
    • Getting plenty of rest to help the body fight the virus.
  • Treatment in the hospital uses a combination of methods to slow the virus, reducing an overactive immune response, and support the body’s immune function.
  • Antibiotics will not help against this or any virus.

Can I travel?

Check CDC’s Travel FAQs pages for the latest recommendations for fully vaccinated and unvaccinated travelers.

How can I look after the emotional health of myself and others?

  • Take breaks from watching, reading, or listening to news stories, including those on social media. It’s good to be informed, but hearing about the pandemic constantly can be upsetting. Consider limiting news to just a couple times a day and disconnecting from phone, TV, and computer screens for a while.
  • Take care of your body.
    • Take deep breaths, stretch, or meditate
    • Try to eat healthy, well-balanced meals
    • Exercise regularly
    • Get plenty of sleep
    • Avoid excessive alcohol, tobacco, and substance use
    • Continue with routine preventive measures (such as vaccinations, cancer screenings, etc.) as recommended by your healthcare provider
    • Get vaccinated with a COVID-19 vaccine
    • Make time to unwind
  • Try to do some other activities you enjoy
  • Connect with others — talk with people you trust about your concerns and how you are feeling
  • Connect with your community- or faith-based organizations. Where social distancing measures are in place, try connecting online, through social media, or by phone or mail

Other resources

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