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 COVID-19 Frequently Asked Questions

COVID-19 Frequently Asked Questions

COVID-19 (coronavirus disease) is an infection that is caused by a virus called severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses. Some of these viruses cause illness in people, and others cause illness in animals like camels, cats, and bats. In some cases, the viruses that cause illness in animals can spread to humans.

What is the name of the disease and the virus?

The name of this disease is coronavirus disease 2019, usually written in short as COVID-19. In COVID-19, "CO" stands for corona, "VI" for virus, and "D" for disease. Formerly, this disease was referred to as "2019 novel coronavirus" or "2019-nCoV."

Who is most at risk of severe illness from COVID-19?

Some people are at higher risk for complications from coronavirus disease. This includes older adults (age 60 years and older) and people who have chronic conditions or diseases, such as high blood pressure, obesity, cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and lung disease.
However, anyone can get sick with COVID-19 and become seriously ill at any age.

How does COVID-19 disease spread?

The virus that causes coronavirus disease spreads easily from person to person (is contagious). You may catch the virus by:
  • Being in close contact (within 6 feet) or direct contact with an infected person.
  • Breathing in respiratory droplets from an infected person. Respiratory droplets can be spread by a person breathing, speaking, singing, coughing, or sneezing.
  • Being exposed to the virus in droplets and particles that can linger in the air for some time (airborne transmission). You are at risk of catching airborne viruses:
    • Even though you are farther than 6 feet away from the infected person.
    • Even though the infected person has left the area.
  • Touching something, like a table or a doorknob, that was exposed to the virus (contaminated) and then touching your mouth, nose, or eyes. This is is not thought to be a common way that COVID-19 spreads.

What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

Symptoms vary from person to person and can range from mild to severe. Symptoms may include:
  • Fever.
  • Dry cough.
  • Feeling tired.
  • New loss of taste or smell.
  • Runny or stuffy nose.
  • Red eyes (conjunctivitis).
  • Sore throat.
  • Headache, muscle or joint pain.
  • Skin rash.
  • Nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea.
  • Chills or dizziness.
Symptoms of severe COVID‐19 disease include shortness of breath, loss of appetite, confusion, consistent pain or pressure in chest, and high fever.
These symptoms can appear anywhere from 2 to 14 days after you have been exposed to the virus. Some people may not have any symptoms. If you develop symptoms, call your health care provider. People with severe symptoms may need hospital care.

When should I be tested for COVID-19?

Anyone with symptoms should be tested, wherever possible. People who do not have symptoms but have had close contact with someone who is or may be infected may also consider testing. Call your local health authorities and follow their guidance.
As you wait for your test results, you should remain isolated from others. If testing capacity is limited, tests are first done for those at higher risk of infection, such as health workers, and those at higher risk of severe illness, such as older people. Older people who are living in seniors residences or long-term care facilities are prioritized.

How does a health care provider test for COVID-19?

Health care providers will collect samples to send for testing. Samples may include:
  • Taking a swab of fluid from the back of your nose and throat, or from your nose or throat.
  • Testing a sample of saliva from your mouth.
  • Taking fluid from the lungs by having you cough up mucus (sputum) into a sterile cup.
  • Taking a blood sample.

Is there a vaccine available for COVID-19?

Yes. Some vaccines to prevent the virus that causes COVID-19 have been authorized for emergency use. "Emergency use authorization" means that the vaccines are still being tested, but they have been shown to be safe and effective in preventing COVID-19. These vaccines may not be available for everyone right away. The vaccines are being given to certain groups who are at higher risk first until there is enough supply available for everyone. Until the vaccines are available for everyone, it is important to continue to take steps to protect yourself and others from this virus.

What can I do to stop the spread of infection?

You can protect yourself and your family by taking the same actions that you would take to prevent the spread of other viruses. Take the following actions:

Wear a mask

  • Everyone 2 years and older should wear masks in public.
  • Masks should be worn in addition to staying at least 6 feet apart, especially around people who do not live with you.
  • Wash your hands or use hand sanitizer before putting on your mask.
  • Wear your mask over your nose and mouth and secure it under your chin. Fit the mask snugly against the sides of your face, slipping the loops over your ears or tying the strings behind your head.

Keep hands clean

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
  • Avoid touching your face, mouth, nose, or eyes before washing your hands.
  • Cough or sneeze into a tissue, sleeve, or elbow. Do not cough or sneeze into your hand or the air.
    • If you cough or sneeze into a tissue, throw it away immediately and wash your hands.

Other things to do

  • COVID-19 vaccines can help protect you from COVID-19. You should get a COVID-19 vaccine when it is available to you. Once you are fully vaccinated, you may be able to start doing some things that you had stopped doing because of the pandemic.
  • Stay 6 feet away from others. Avoid crowds and poorly ventilated areas.
  • Disinfect objects and surfaces that are frequently touched every day.
  • Stay away from people who are sick.
  • Always follow guidance from your state and local health authorities.
  • Stay home if you are sick, except to get medical care. Call your health care provider before you get medical care. Your health care provider will tell you how long to stay home.

What should I do if I need to travel?

Follow travel recommendations from your local health authority, the CDC, and WHO.

Travel information and advice

Where to find more information

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) World Health Organization (WHO) American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP)
The coronavirus situation is changing rapidly. Check your local health authority website or the CDC and WHO websites for updates and news.

When should I contact a health care provider?

  • Contact your health care provider if you have symptoms of an infection, such as fever or cough, and you:
    • Have been near anyone who is known to have coronavirus disease.
    • Have come into contact with a person who is suspected to have coronavirus disease.
    • Have traveled to an area where there is an outbreak of COVID-19.

When should I get emergency medical care?

  • Get help right away by calling your local emergency services (911 in the U.S.) if you have:
    • Trouble breathing.
    • Pain or pressure in your chest.
    • Confusion.
    • Blue-tinged lips and fingernails.
    • Difficulty waking from sleep.
    • Symptoms that get worse.
Let the emergency medical personnel know if you think you have coronavirus disease.


  • COVID-19 (coronavirus disease) is an infection that is caused by a virus called severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2).
  • The virus that causes COVID-19 spreads very easily. It spreads from being in close contact (within 6 feet) or direct contact with an infected person.
  • Older adults and people with chronic diseases are at higher risk of serious disease. If you are at higher risk for complications, take extra precautions.
  • Some vaccines for the virus that causes COVID-19 have been authorized for emergency use. This means that the vaccines are still being tested, but they have been shown to be safe and effective in preventing COVID-19.
  • You can prevent the spread of infection by getting a vaccination, wear a mask, stay 6 feet away from others, wash your hands often, avoid touching your face, and cover your coughs and sneezes.

This information is not intended to replace advice given to you by your health care provider. Make sure you discuss any questions you have with your health care provider.