COVID-19 is a potentially severe viral infection that affects your lungs and airways.
It's caused by a new type of coronavirus
The virus spreads very easily to other people
COVID-19 is now everywhere in the world
Some infected people have no symptoms, but others get very sick, and some people die
Doctors test swabs from your nose or throat to diagnose COVID-19
No medicines cure COVID-19, but doctors are testing some that might help
Doctors are also working on a vaccine to prevent COVID-19
COVID-19 is caused by a new type of coronavirus called SARS-CoV2. Doctors call it new because it hasn't been around before. It recently changed (mutated) from a type of coronavirus that infects bats.
The virus spreads:
Unlike with many respiratory viruses, you can spread the virus that causes COVID-19 before you have any symptoms. If you don't know you have the virus, you can easily pass it on and not know it.
There are hundreds of different coronaviruses that are all related. Most of them infect only animals.
Many people with COVID-19, particularly children, have almost no symptoms.
If you do get symptoms, you'll likely have:
You may also have:
A bad infection gets deep in your lungs, causing viral pneumonia. That will make you very short of breath. A bad infection can also affect a lot of organs, including your brain, heart, and kidneys.
You can die from COVID-19. The older you are, the higher your risk of death. Most deaths occur in people over 50 years old. People over 80 are at very high risk. But even children and young adults can die.
You're also at higher risk if you:
The most common test uses:
The swab is sent to a lab to look for the virus.
A blood test can look for antibodies your immune system has made to defend against the virus. It takes your body a few weeks to make these antibodies, so this test is not useful when you first get sick. But it can help tell whether you were ever infected.
If you're short of breath, doctors will usually:
If you have a mild or moderate case, you'll:
If you have a severe case, with breathing problems, you'll need to go to the hospital. Doctors will:
You may need to be on a ventilator for up to a few weeks.
There are no medicines that are proven to kill the virus, but doctors are trying some that might help.
If you have problems with your kidneys, you may need dialysis.
The best way to prevent COVID-19 is to avoid being exposed to the virus. These actions help:
Stay about 6 feet (2 meters) away from people in public (social distancing)
Wear a cloth face mask when you're in public (see Use of Cloth Face Coverings to Help Slow the Spread of COVID-19)
Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds
Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer
Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands
Cover a cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash
Use a household disinfectant spray or wipe to clean things people touch a lot, like door handles, phones, remote controls, and countertops