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, a new coronavirus was identified as the cause of a disease outbreak that originated in China.
Coronavirus Disease Symptoms
Signs and symptoms of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) may appear two to 14 days after exposure. This time after exposure and before having symptoms is called the incubation period. Common signs and symptoms can include:
Early symptoms of COVID-19 may include a loss of taste or smell.
Other symptoms can include:
- Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
- Muscle aches
- Sore throat
- Runny nose
- Chest pain
- Pink eye (conjunctivitis)
Coronavirus Disease Causes
Infection with the new coronavirus (severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2, or SARS-CoV-2) causes coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).
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The virus that causes COVID-19 spreads easily among people, and more continues to be discovered over time about how it spreads. Data has shown that it spreads mainly from person to person among those in close contact (within about 6 feet, or 2 meters). The virus spreads by respiratory droplets released when someone with the virus coughs, sneezes, breathes, sings or talks. These droplets can be inhaled or land in the mouth, nose or eyes of a person nearby.
In some situations, the COVID-19 virus can spread by a person being exposed to small droplets or aerosols that stay in the air for several minutes or hours — called airborne transmission. It’s not yet known how common it is for the virus to spread this way.
It can also spread if a person touches a surface or object with the virus on it and then touches his or her mouth, nose or eyes, although this isn’t considered to be a main way it spreads.
Coronavirus Disease Risk factors
Risk factors for COVID-19 appear to include:
- Close contact (within 6 feet, or 2 meters) with someone who has COVID-19
- Being coughed or sneezed on by an infected person
Coronavirus Disease Prevention
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has given emergency use authorization for two COVID-19 vaccines, the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine and the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine. A vaccine might prevent you from getting COVID-19 or prevent you from becoming seriously ill from COVID-19 if you get the COVID-19 virus. You can take additional steps to reduce your risk of infection. WHO and CDC recommend following these precautions for avoiding exposure to the virus that causes COVID-19:
- Avoid close contact (within about 6 feet, or 2 meters) with anyone who is sick or has symptoms.
- Keep distance between yourself and others (within about 6 feet, or 2 meters). This is especially important if you have a higher risk of serious illness. Keep in mind some people may have COVID-19 and spread it to others, even if they don’t have symptoms or don’t know they have COVID-19.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
- Cover your face with a cloth face mask in public spaces, such as the grocery store, where it’s difficult to avoid close contact with others. Surgical masks may be used if available. N95 respirators should be reserved for health care providers.
- Cover your mouth and nose with your elbow or a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw away the used tissue.
- Wash your hands right away.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
- Avoid sharing dishes, glasses, towels, bedding and other household items if you’re sick.
- Clean and disinfect high-touch surfaces, such as doorknobs, light switches, electronics and counters, daily.
- Stay home from work, school and public areas if you’re sick, unless you’re going to get medical care. Avoid public transportation, taxis and ride-sharing if you’re sick.
- If you have a chronic medical condition and may have a higher risk of serious illness, check with your doctor about other ways to protect yourself.