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Jan.19.2021View related content
 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.

Where did the coronavirus come from?

In December 2019, China told the World Health Organization (WHO) about several cases of lung disease (human respiratory illness). These cases were linked to an open seafood and livestock market in the city of Wuhan. The link to the seafood and livestock market suggests that the virus may have spread from animals to humans. However, since that first outbreak in December 2019, the virus has also been shown to spread from person to person.

What is the name of the disease and the virus?

Disease name

Early on, this disease was called novel coronavirus. This is because scientists determined that the disease was caused by a new (novel) respiratory virus. The World Health Organization (WHO) has now named the disease COVID-19, or coronavirus disease.

Virus name

The virus that causes the disease is called severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2).

More information on disease and virus naming

Who is at risk for complications from coronavirus disease?

Some people may be at higher risk for complications from coronavirus disease. This includes older adults and people who have chronic diseases, such as heart disease, diabetes, and lung disease.
If you are at higher risk for complications, take these extra precautions:
  • Stay home as much as possible.
  • Avoid social gatherings and travel.
  • Avoid close contact with others. Stay at least 6 ft (2 m) away from others, if possible.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
  • Avoid touching your face, mouth, nose, or eyes.
  • Keep supplies on hand at home, such as food, medicine, and cleaning supplies.
  • If you must go out in public, wear a cloth face covering or face mask. Make sure your mask covers your nose and mouth.

How does coronavirus disease spread?

The virus that causes coronavirus disease spreads easily from person to person (is contagious). You may catch the virus by:
  • Breathing in droplets from an infected person. Droplets can be spread by a person breathing, speaking, singing, coughing, or sneezing.
  • Touching something, like a table or a doorknob, that was exposed to the virus (contaminated) and then touching your mouth, nose, or eyes.

Can I get the virus from touching surfaces or objects?

There is still a lot that we do not know about the virus that causes coronavirus disease. Scientists are basing a lot of information on what they know about similar viruses, such as:
  • Viruses cannot generally survive on surfaces for long. They need a human body (host) to survive.
  • It is more likely that the virus is spread by close contact with people who are sick (direct contact), such as through:
    • Shaking hands or hugging.
    • Breathing in respiratory droplets that travel through the air. Droplets can be spread by a person breathing, speaking, singing, coughing, or sneezing.
  • It is less likely that the virus is spread when a person touches a surface or object that has the virus on it (indirect contact). The virus may be able to enter the body if the person touches a surface or object and then touches his or her face, eyes, nose, or mouth.

Can a person spread the virus without having symptoms of the disease?

It may be possible for the virus to spread before a person has symptoms of the disease, but this is most likely not the main way the virus is spreading. It is more likely for the virus to spread by being in close contact with people who are sick and by breathing in the respiratory droplets spread when a person breathes, speaks, sings, coughs, or sneezes.

What are the symptoms of coronavirus disease?

Symptoms vary from person to person and can range from mild to severe. Symptoms may include:
  • Fever or chills.
  • Cough.
  • Difficulty breathing or feeling short of breath.
  • Feeling tired.
  • Headaches, body aches, or muscle aches.
  • Runny or stuffy (congested) nose.
  • Sore throat.
  • New loss of taste or smell.
  • Nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea.
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.

Should I be tested for this virus?

Your health care provider will decide whether to test you based on your symptoms, history of exposure, and your risk factors.

How does a health care provider test for this virus?

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, from your nose, or from your 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 treatment or vaccine for this virus?

Some medicines have been approved for the treatment of people with severe cases of COVID-19 who are being treated in the hospital. There are no medicines that have been approved for treatment of people with mild cases of COVID-19 who do not need hospitalization. Certain medicines used to treat other diseases are being used on a trial basis to see if there are more options for the treatment of COVID-19.
If you develop symptoms, call your health care provider. People with severe symptoms may need hospital care.
Some vaccines to prevent 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 deemed safe for use and have been effective in preventing COVID-19 in trials. These vaccines may not be available for everyone right away. The vaccines will likely be given to certain groups 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 protect myself and my family from this virus?



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:
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Avoid touching your face, mouth, nose, or eyes.
  • 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.
  • Disinfect objects and surfaces that are frequently touched every day.
  • Stay away from people who are sick.
  • Avoid going out in public. Follow guidance from your state and local health authorities.
  • Avoid crowded indoor spaces. Stay at least 6 ft (2 m) away from others.
  • If you must go out in public, wear a cloth face covering or face mask. Make sure your mask covers your nose and mouth.
  • 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.
  • Make sure your vaccines are up to date. Ask your health care provider what vaccines you need.

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

What should I do if I am sick?

General instructions to stop the spread of infection

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • 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.
  • Stay home unless you must get medical care. Call your health care provider or local health authority before you get medical care.
  • Avoid public areas. Do not take public transportation, if possible.
  • If you can, wear a mask if you must go out of the house or if you are in close contact with someone who is not sick. Make sure your mask covers your nose and mouth.

Keep your home clean

  • Disinfect objects and surfaces that are frequently touched every day. This may include:
    • Counters and tables.
    • Doorknobs and light switches.
    • Sinks and faucets.
    • Electronics such as phones, remote controls, keyboards, computers, and tablets.
  • Wash dishes in hot, soapy water or use a dishwasher. Air-dry your dishes.
  • Wash laundry in hot water.

Prevent infecting other household members

  • Let healthy household members care for children and pets, if possible. If you have to care for children or pets, wash your hands often and wear a mask.
  • If possible, sleep in a different bedroom or bed, separate from others. Use a different bathroom.
  • Do not share personal items, such as razors, toothbrushes, deodorant, combs, brushes, towels, and washcloths.

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.

Summary

  • A new respiratory virus is spreading from person to person and causing COVID-19 (coronavirus disease).
  • The virus that causes COVID-19 appears to spread easily. It spreads from one person to another through droplets from breathing, speaking, singing, coughing, or sneezing.
  • Older adults and those with chronic diseases are at higher risk of 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 deemed safe for use and have been effective in preventing COVID-19 in trials.
  • You can protect yourself and your family by washing your hands often, avoiding touching your face, and covering 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.