What is coronavirus (COVID-19)?

COVID-19 is a disease caused by a new type of coronavirus. This illness was first found in December 2019. It has since spread worldwide.

Coronaviruses are a large group of viruses. They cause the common cold. They also cause more serious illnesses like Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) and severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS). COVID-19 is caused by a novel coronavirus. That means it's a new type that has not been seen in people before.

What are the symptoms?

Coronavirus (COVID-19) symptoms may include:

  • Fever.
  • Cough.
  • Trouble breathing.
  • Chills or repeated shaking with chills.
  • Muscle pain.
  • Headache.
  • Sore throat.
  • New loss of taste or smell.
  • Vomiting.
  • Diarrhea.

In severe cases, COVID-19 can cause pneumonia and make it hard to breathe without help from a machine. It can cause death.

How is it diagnosed?

COVID-19 is diagnosed with a viral test. This may also be called a PCR test or antigen test. It looks for evidence of the virus in your breathing passages or lungs (respiratory system).

The test is most often done on a sample from the nose, throat, or lungs. It's sometimes done on a sample of saliva. One way a sample is collected is by putting a long swab into the back of your nose.

How is it treated?

Mild cases of COVID-19 can be treated at home. Serious cases need treatment in the hospital. Treatment may include medicines to reduce symptoms, plus breathing support such as oxygen therapy or a ventilator. Some people may be placed on their belly to help their oxygen levels.

Treatments that may help people who have COVID-19 include:

Antiviral medicines.
These medicines treat viral infections. Remdesivir is an example.
Immune-based therapy.
These medicines help the immune system fight COVID-19. One example is bamlanivimab. It's a monoclonal antibody.
Blood thinners.
These medicines help prevent blood clots. People with severe illness are at risk for blood clots.

How can you protect yourself and others?

The best way to protect yourself from getting sick is to:

  • Avoid areas where there is an outbreak.
  • Avoid contact with people who may be infected.
  • Avoid crowds and try to stay at least 6 feet away from other people.
  • Wash your hands often, especially after you cough or sneeze. Use soap and water, and scrub for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water aren't available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Avoid touching your mouth, nose, and eyes.

To help avoid spreading the virus to others:

  • Stay home if you are sick or have been exposed to the virus. Don't go to school, work, or public areas. And don't use public transportation, ride-shares, or taxis unless you have no choice.
  • Wear a cloth face cover if you have to go to public areas.
  • Cover your mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Then throw the tissue in the trash and wash your hands right away.
  • If you're sick:
    • Leave your home only if you need to get medical care. But call the doctor's office first so they know you're coming. And wear a face cover.
    • Wear the face cover whenever you're around other people. It can help stop the spread of the virus when you cough or sneeze.
    • Limit contact with pets and people in your home. If possible, stay in a separate bedroom and use a separate bathroom.
    • Clean and disinfect your home every day. Use household cleaners and disinfectant wipes or sprays. Take special care to clean things that you grab with your hands. These include doorknobs, remote controls, phones, and handles on your refrigerator and microwave. And don't forget countertops, tabletops, bathrooms, and computer keyboards.

When should you call for help?

Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if you have life-threatening symptoms, such as:

  • You have severe trouble breathing. (You can't talk at all.)
  • You have constant chest pain or pressure.
  • You are severely dizzy or lightheaded.
  • You are confused or can't think clearly.
  • Your face and lips have a blue color.
  • You pass out (lose consciousness) or are very hard to wake up.

Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You have moderate trouble breathing. (You can't speak a full sentence.)
  • You are coughing up blood (more than about 1 teaspoon).
  • You have signs of low blood pressure. These include feeling lightheaded; being too weak to stand; and having cold, pale, clammy skin.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:

  • Your symptoms get worse.
  • You are not getting better as expected.

Call before you go to the doctor's office. Follow their instructions. And wear a cloth face cover.