Coronaviruses are a family of viruses that can cause illnesses such as the common cold, severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS). In 2019, it identified a new coronavirus as the cause of a disease outbreak that originated in China. We now know that the virus is now as the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). The disease it induces is called coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).
Cases of COVID-19 have been accounted for in a growing number of countries, including the U.S. Public health groups, such as the World Health Organization (WHO) and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), are monitoring the situation and posting updates on their websites. WHO declared a global pandemic in March 2020? These groups have also declared instructions for preventing and treating the illness.
Watch For Symptoms of COVID-19
Reported illnesses have ranged from mild symptoms to severe illness and death for confirmed coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) cases. The following symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure.*
- Shortness of breath
If you develop emergency warning signs for COVID-19, get medical attention immediately. Emergency warning signs include*:
- Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
- Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
- New confusion or inability to arouse
- Bluish lips or face
*This list is not all-inclusive. Please consult your medical provider for any other symptoms that are severe or concerning.
Older adults and people who have severe underlying chronic medical conditions like heart or lung disease or diabetes seem to be at higher risk for developing more serious complications from COVID-19 illness. Please consult with your health care provider about additional steps you may take to protect yourself.
How COVID-19 Spreads
- There is no vaccine to prevent coronavirus disease in 2019 (COVID-19).
- The best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to this virus.
- The virus is considered spreading mainly from person-to-person.
- Between people are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet).
- Respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes.
- These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs.
How to Protect Yourself
Clean your hands often
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after you have been in a public place, or after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
- If soap and water are not readily available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. Cover all surfaces of your hands and rub them together until they feel dry.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
Avoid close contact
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick
- Put distance between yourself and other people if COVID-19 is spreading in your community. This is especially important for people are at higher risk of getting very sick.
Take Steps to Protect Others
Stay home if you’re sick
- Stay home if you are sick, except to get medical care. Learn what to do if you are sick.
Cover coughs and sneezes
- Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze or use the inside of your elbow.
- Throw used tissues in the trash.
- Immediately wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not readily available, clean your hands with a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
Wear a facemask if you are sick
- If you are sick: wear a facemask when you are around other people (e.g., sharing a room or vehicle) and before you enter a healthcare provider’s office. If you cannot wear a facemask (for example, because it causes trouble breathing), then you should do your best to cover your coughs and sneezes, and people who are caring for wear a facemask if they enter your room.
- If you are NOT sick: You need not wear a facemask unless you are caring for someone who is sick (and they are not able to wear a facemask).
Clean and disinfect
- Clean AND disinfect frequently touched surfaces daily. This includes tables, doorknobs, light switches, countertops, handles, desks, phones, keyboards, toilets, faucets, and sinks.
- If surfaces are dirty, clean them: Use detergent or soap and water before disinfection.
How Does the Virus Spread?
This virus was first detected in Wuhan City, Hubei Province, China. The first contaminations were linked to a live animal market, but the virus is now spreading from person-to-person. It’s important to note that person-to-person spread can happen on a continuum. Some viruses are highly contagious (like measles), while other viruses are less so.
The virus that causes COVID-19 seems to spread easily and sustainably in the community (“community spread”) in some affected geographic areas. Community spread means people have been infected with the virus in an area, including some who are not sure how or where they become infected.
Will Warm Weather Stop the Outbreak of COVID-19
It is not yet known whether weather and temperature impact the spread of COVID-19. Some other viruses, like the common cold and flu, spread more during cold weather months but that does not mean it is impossible to become sick with these viruses during other months. At this time, it is not known whether the spread of COVID-19 will decrease when the weather becomes warmer. There is much more to learn about the transmissibility, severity, and other features associated with COVID-19 and investigations are ongoing.