COVID-19 (Coronavirus disease 2019) is an infection of the airways and lungs. It causes a minor cold-like illness in most. Others may develop severe breathing problems or illness.
COVID-19 is caused by a new type of coronavirus that was first seen in humans in 2019. This new form has led to an outbreak of COVID-19 in many countries.
The virus is passed from person to person. Someone who is ill can release droplets with the virus when they sneeze or cough. The droplets can enter the mouth, nose, or eyes of those near the infected person. This seems to be the most common method of passing the illness. The droplets can also land on surfaces around someone who is ill. The virus may then pass when someone else touches the surface, and then touches their mouth, nose, or eyes.
Symptoms can range from mild to severe. They often appear 2 to 14 days after contact with the virus. Common symptoms may include:
- Fever or chills
- Shortness of breath
- Pain in muscles
- Loss of taste or smell
- Sore throat
- Congestion or runny nose
- Nausea or vomiting
Some may have more severe symptoms. Get medical care immediately for:
- Trouble breathing
- Nonstop chest pain or pressure
- Changes in awareness, confusion, or problems waking
- Bluish color in lips or face
The doctor will ask about symptoms. There are many viruses and health issues that cause similar symptoms. They may suspect COVID-19 if you are in high-risk areas or have had close contact with someone who has or may have COVID-19.
A cotton swab will take a sample of fluid from the nose or throat. This test will confirm COVID-19. Blood tests may also be done to look for signs of infection.
Mild to Moderate Illness
It can take a few days to a few weeks to clear the COVID-19 virus from the body. Many will not have symptoms. Others may have mild symptoms that can be managed at home. Rest, fluids, and over the counter medicine will help until COVID infections passes.
People aged 50 years or more, those with a weakened immune system, and unvaccinated people have a higher risk of severe COVID. They should contact their doctor as soon as they know or suspect they have COVID. Treatment may help to prevent severe illness and need for hospital stay. It may also reduce the risk of dying from COVID. Treatment choices may include"
These treatments work best when they are started in first few days of illness.
Hospital care may be needed for severe symptoms. Treatment may include: The hospital care team will also be able to respond to any other problems caused by the virus.
To stop the spread of infection to others:
To stop the spread of infection to others:
Stay at home unless you need medical care. Isolation can end if all of the
following are true:
- It has been at least 5 days since mild symptoms started. Or it has been 10 days since moderate symptoms started.
- AND you are fever-free for 24 hours without fever reducing medicine
- AND other symptoms are getting better.
- Try to avoid close contact with others at home. If possible, spend most of your time in a separate room.
- Wipe down common surfaces in the home such as doorknobs, counters, or sinks with household cleaners.
- Wash your hands often. Wash with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use alcohol-based hand cleaner if soap and water is not on hand.
- Cough or sneeze into a tissue. Throw away the tissue after use. Cough or sneeze into elbow if tissue is not available.
- Use a face mask if you will be close to others such as sharing a room or vehicle or going somewhere public.
- Avoid close contact with pets while you are sick. There is no proof of the virus passing to pets. This is a safety step until more is known about this virus.
To help lower your chance of COVID-19:
- Get the primary and booster doses of the COVID-19 vaccine.
- Wash your hands often. Wash with soap and water for 20 seconds each time. Use alcohol-based hand cleaner if soap and water is not available.
- Try to stop touching your eyes, nose, or mouth.
- Follow recommendations in your community which, at times, may include:
- Keep a safe distance (about 6 feet) from other people.
- Wear a facemask when in large group and public space where safe distance is difficult. The mask should be snug to the face and cover nose and mouth.
- Avoid large gatherings.
- Avoid travel to high risk areas. Check with government travel restrictions and precautions.
- Talk to your doctor if you have a higher risk of severe COVID because of age or health.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention https://www.cdc.gov/COVID19
World Health Organization http://who.int
Health Canada http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca
Public Health Agency of Canada http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca
Advice for the public: coronavirus disease (COVID-19). World Health Organization website. Available at: https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/advice-for-public. Accessed February 14, 2022.
Coronavirus disease (COVID-19). United States Department of Labor website. Available at: https://www.osha.gov/coronavirus#what%5Fis. Accessed February 14, 2022.
Travel. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/travelers/index.html. Accessed Accessed February 14, 2022.
COVID-19 (Novel Coronavirus). EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/covid-19-novel-coronavirus. Accessed February 14, 2022.
Q&A World Health Organization website. Available at: https://www.who.int/news-room/q-a-detail/q-a-coronaviruses. Accessed February 14, 2022.
What to Do If You Are Sick With Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/about/steps-when-sick.html. Accessed Accessed February 14, 2022.
World Health Organization (WHO) technical documents for coronavirus disease (COVID-19). World Health Organization website. Available at: https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/technical-guidance. Accessed February 14, 2022.
- Reviewer: EBSCO Medical Review Board Daniel A. Ostrovsky, MD
- Update Date: 02/14/2022