Know the Facts About Coronavirus (COVID-19)

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

COVID-19 is the name for the disease being caused by coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2. This virus is all over the news. 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 real 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. Because this is a new disease, doctors are still learning about it. You can expect them, along with other health experts, to continue to provide new information about it frequently.

Common symptoms of COVID-19 include a fever, cough, and shortness of breath. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 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. Most 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 even 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 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 health issues, such as heart disease, lung disease, or diabetes are at a greater risk of getting a severe case of the virus. Likewise, the older you are, the greater your risk of getting a severe case.

What is the treatment for COVID-19?

Most of the time, treatment for COVID-19 can be done at home and is similar to treating influenza.

  • 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.

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) has authorized the vaccines, and the CDC has 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 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.

Family Physicians write a “Prescription for America” to just stay home.

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.
  • 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.
  • Wear a cloth mask in public, even if you don’t feel sick. This prevents 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.
  • Stay healthy. Eat a balanced diet. Get plenty of sleep. Exercise. Don’t use tobacco products or alcohol to deal with your stress.
  • Get your news from trusted sources. Make sure the online news articles you read are from a trusted news-based organization. Aside from your doctor, you can trust information from the Centers for Disease Control, the U.S. Surgeon General, and the World Health Organization. You can also rely on news presented by your local or state public health agency.
  • 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?

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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