Know the Facts About Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Last Updated October 2021 | This article was created by familydoctor.org editorial staff and reviewed by Kyle Bradford Jones

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COVID-19 is the name for the disease caused by coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2. This virus has led to serious illness and death. You may hear one thing from one source, then hear the opposite thing from another source. That makes it hard to know what’s true. Read the following to get the facts about the disease.

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What is COVID-19?

COVID-19 is a respiratory disease. It was first reported in China in December 2019. Doctors are still learning about it. You can expect them, along with other health experts, to continue to provide information about it frequently.

Common symptoms of COVID-19 include a fever, cough, and shortness of breath. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) considers a person to have a fever when he or she has a measured temperature of at least 100.4° F [38° C]. These symptoms occur 2 to 14 days after being exposed to the virus. Many people who come down with COVID-19 have mild symptoms. These symptoms can make you feel like you have the flu. However, some people have no symptoms and others have severe symptoms. In some cases, COVID-19 can be fatal.

How do people get COVID-19?

The most common way to get COVID-19 is by inhaling respiratory droplets that are in the air. When a person with COVID-19 breathes, coughs, or sneezes, tiny droplets leave their mouth and nose and go into the air. You can’t see these droplets. If you’re within 6 feet of that person, you may breathe in those droplets. You won’t know you’ve done it. But by doing that, you may get the germs that cause COVID-19 in your body.

COVID-19 also can be shared if you touch a surface an infected person has touched. Some examples include door handles, elevator buttons and shopping carts. The germs can get into your body if you then touch your eyes, nose, or mouth.

Who is likely to get COVID-19?

Some people have a greater risk of becoming sick with COVID-19. Those include:

  • People in contact with someone who has COVID-19
  • Travelers returning from states with high COVID-19 rates
  • Travelers returning from international areas where there is a high concentration of COVID-19 cases
  • People in contact with travelers returning from international areas where there is a high concentration of COVID-19 cases

People who have chronic health issues, such as heart disease, lung disease, or diabetes, are at a greater risk of becoming seriously ill. Likewise, the older you are, the greater your risk of getting a severe case.

How do I get tested for COVID-19?

If you think you have COVID-19, stay home and contact your family doctor to get advice on what you should do next. Information on COVID-19 testing options and availability continues to change.

What is the treatment for COVID-19?

Most of the time, COVID-19 treatment includes treating the symptoms, which can be done at home. It’s often similar to treating influenza symptoms (the flu).

  • Stay home.
  • If possible, stay in a separate room from others in your house. You want to stay away so you don’t make anyone else sick.
  • Contact your doctor. They’ll tell you what to do to treat your symptoms.

In August 2021, the CDC warned against using Ivermectin. Ivermectin is not authorized or approved by FDA for prevention or treatment of COVID-19. Taking Ivermectin for COVID-19 can cause severe illness when taken outside of its intended use.

Are there vaccines to prevent COVID-19?

Three vaccines for COVID-19 have been authorized for emergency use in the United States from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson (Janssen).

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorized the vaccines, and the CDC recommended the Pfizer-BioNTech’s coronavirus vaccine for people 16 and older and the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines for people 18 and older. In August 2021, the FDA gave full approval to the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, now known as Comirnaty. That means this vaccine is fully cleared for use in people ages 16 and older. The vaccine can also still be used under emergency use authorization for kids ages 12 to 15.

The vaccine protects you from getting very sick by keeping the SARS-CoV-2 virus from entering your cells and causing COVID-19. But the vaccine does not keep you from getting the virus and possibly spreading it. Also, it takes a few weeks after the second dose of the vaccine to get the best protection.

In clinical trials, all three vaccines proved to be greater than 94% effective in preventing people from getting seriously ill from COVID-19 “across age, gender, race, and ethnicity demographics.” Over 100,000 people were included in the three trials.

Read more about the vaccine in COVID-19 Vaccine Frequently Asked Questions.

Things to consider

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed and nervous when thinking about COVID-19. Here are some steps you can take to keep your stress under control.

  • Talk with your family doctor. Ask them what you should or shouldn’t be doing. They may suggest ways you can help your kids deal with any stress they’re feeling, too.
  • Consider wearing a mask in public, even if you don’t feel sick. In July 2021, the CDC updated their guidance to require masks where COVID-19 rates were high. Masks protect you and prevent you from spreading the virus to others. The masks should always cover your mouth and nose. Even with the mask, continue to keep 6 feet between you and others. For additional guidance, see the CDC’s Guide to Masks.
  • Wash your hands frequently. This will help get rid of viruses and other germs on your hands. If you’re not near soap and water, use a hand sanitizer that contains between 60% and 95% alcohol.
  • Don’t touch your face, especially your eyes, nose, and mouth. These are the locations where a virus can enter your body.
  • Misinformation is an issue. Get your news from trusted sources. Make sure the online articles you read are from a trusted news-based organization. Aside from your doctor, you can trust information from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the U.S. Surgeon General, and the World Health Organization (WHO). You can also rely on news presented by your local or state public health agency.
  • Stay healthy. Eat a balanced diet. Get plenty of sleep. Exercise. Don’t use tobacco products or alcohol to deal with your stress.
  • Don’t panic. Do this by staying informed and knowing the facts.

If you or someone in your family feels sick, stay home. Don’t go to work or school. Call your doctor. They will advise what you should do next. If you or someone in your family develops a fever, cough, and has trouble breathing, call your doctor right away or go to the emergency room.

Questions to ask your doctor

  • Am I at risk for getting COVID-19?
  • How will I know if I have COVID-19?
  • Is there a test for COVID-19?
  • Is there a vaccine for COVID-19?
  • Can my children get COVID-19?
  • Is it safe to travel within the United States by bus, train, or airplane?
  • Is it safe to be in a large crowd?

Read more from familydoctor.org

Resources

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Coronavirus (COVID-19)

National Institutes for Health, MedlinePlus: COVID-19 (Coronavirus Disease 2019)

World Health Organization: Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) Pandemic