Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Basic Facts

You may have heard a lot recently about “coronavirus” or COVID-19, the disease caused by a virus responsible for the current global outbreak. Scientists and health experts are still learning more, but here are five things to know to keep yourself and those you care for safe and informed.

What is COVID-19?

COVID-19 is the disease caused by a type of coronavirus, which is a family of viruses common in humans and many different animals. Viruses in this family can cause respiratory illnesses ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases. Cases of COVID-19 in particular can be mild, but others can be more severe and occasionally deadly—especially for those living with other chronic health conditions.

Where is COVID-19?

Click here for a list of countries impacted by COVID-19.

What are the Symptoms? What Should I Do if I Experience Them?

In general, COVID-19 causes a respiratory illness that ranges from mild to severe, though for some it can be deadly. Symptoms, which usually appear 2 to 14 days after someone gets infected, can include:

  • Fever or chills

  • Cough

  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing

  • Fatigue

  • Muscle or body aches

  • Headache

  • New loss of taste or smell

  • Sore throat

  • Congestion or runny nose

  • Nausea or vomiting

  • Diarrhea

If you have these symptoms, call your healthcare professional first, before visiting an office. Your healthcare professional will determine if your symptoms match COVID-19 and whether you should be tested. Also contact your healthcare professional if you have been in close contact with a person known to have COVID-19 and/or have recently traveled to an area where COVID-19 cases have occurred.

If you develop emergency warning signs such as difficulty breathing, call 911 immediately. Let the 911 operator know that you may have COVID-19 symptoms. 

How Does COVID-19 Spread?

Scientists are still learning more, but coronavirus appears to spread person-to-person during close contact with someone infected, specifically from respiratory droplets when that person coughs.

How Can I Protect Myself and Others?

The most effective way to protect yourself and others from COVID-19 is to get vaccinated

Additionally, the CDC recommends these everyday practices:

  • Older adults or those with chronic medical conditions should consider postponing travel, especially to areas impacted by COVID-19.
  • Avoid crowds or poorly ventilated areas.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Make sure you have access to several weeks of medications and supplies in case you need to stay home for prolonged periods of time.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water (or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol) for at least 20 seconds. Soap up and then sing the “Happy Birthday” song twice before you rinse off the soap. You should especially wash your hands after going to the bathroom; before eating; after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing; and after encountering anyone who is or may be sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash. If a tissue isn’t readily available, sneeze or cough into your elbow to reduce the risk of spreading infection with your hands.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning product.

Last Updated August 2021