In this article
- What is COVID-19?
- How does COVID-19 spread?
- Who is at high risk of getting very sick with COVID-19?
- Am I at risk for COVID-19?
- What are the symptoms of COVID-19?
- How do I know if I have COVID-19 vs a cold or the flu?
- How can I protect myself from getting COVID-19?
- How can I prevent spread among household members, intimate partners, or caregivers?
- What is the difference between self-isolation and self-quarantine?
- When should I seek medical care?
- How is COVID-19 treated?
- What’s the point of being diagnosed if there is no medical treatment?
- Who should get tested?
- How long after symptoms go away will I still show positive for the virus?
- Where can I learn more about COVID-19?
What is COVID-19?
Coronavirus disease (also called COVID-19) is an infection caused by SARS-CoV-2 (severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus), one of the most recently discovered types of coronaviruses. Those who have this disease may or may not experience symptoms, which range from mild to severe.
How does COVID-19 spread?
COVID-19 spreads from person-to-person. When an infected person coughs, sneezes, or exhales, droplets containing the virus go into the air and onto surfaces and objects around them. Other people are exposed to the virus by breathing in these droplets or by touching their eyes, nose, or mouth after touching infected surfaces.
Who is at high risk of getting very sick with COVID-19?
Most people have mild symptoms. Severe cases are more likely to occur in older adults (65 years of age and older), as well as pregnant women, those with weakened immune systems, and those with underlying health issues (such as lung disease, diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure, heart conditions, stroke, kidney disease or on dialysis, liver disease, cancer, transplant, AIDS, lupus, and rheumatoid arthritis). However, serious disease can also occur in young, healthy adults.
Am I at risk for COVID-19?
COVID-19 is very contagious. The risk of getting COVID-19 depends on many factors, including close contact with people who have symptoms of COVID-19. It is important to follow your federal, state, and local government guidance to protect yourself from exposure.
What are the symptoms of COVID-19?
People with COVID-19 have had a wide range of symptoms reported – ranging from mild symptoms to severe illness.
Symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure to the virus. People with these symptoms may have COVID-19:
- Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
- Muscle pain
- Sore throat
- New loss of taste or smell
This list is not all possible symptoms. Other less common symptoms have been reported, including gastrointestinal symptoms like nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea.
How do I know if I have COVID-19 vs a cold or the flu?
The symptoms for all of these conditions can be similar: fever, sore throat, cough, and respiratory symptoms. The only way to know for sure whether you have COVID-19 is to test positive for the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
How can I protect myself from getting COVID-19?
If you believe you may have COVID-19 or test positive for COVID-19 and have mild symptoms, the following steps can help prevent the disease from spreading to others:
- Stay in a specific room and away from other people in your home
- Restrict any activities outside your home, except for getting medical care
- Avoid public areas, including work and school
- Avoid using public transportation, ride-sharing, or taxis
Cover your nose and mouth
- If you are sick, wear a facemask when you are around other people or pets
- Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze, and throw away used tissues
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds
- Wash your hands especially after blowing your nose, coughing, sneezing, going to the bathroom, or before eating or preparing food
- If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, mouth, and other people with unwashed hands
Do not share
- Do not share dishes, cups, eating utensils, towels, or bedding with other people or pets
- After using personal items, they should be washed thoroughly with soap and water
Clean and disinfect
- Clean high touch surfaces such as counters, tabletops, doorknobs, bathroom fixtures, toilets, phones, keyboards, tablets, and bedside tables
- Clean any surfaces that may come in contact with body fluids, blood, or stool
- Use a household cleaning spray or wipes
- Immediately remove and wash clothes or bedding that have body fluids, blood, or stool on them
How can I prevent spread among household members, intimate partners or caregivers?
Individuals who have potentially been exposed to COVID-19 should self-quarantine and follow these self-isolation recommendations for 14 days after possible exposure. This also applies to individuals who have recently traveled to countries where COVID-19 is spreading. During this time period, you should monitor your symptoms closely to see if you get sick. Call your healthcare provider right away if you develop symptoms suggestive of COVID-19 (such as fever, cough, and shortness of breath)
The below information is for household members, intimate partners, and caregivers of a person who have tested positive for COVID-19, or who do not have symptoms, but who may have been exposed.
Monitor your health
- Call your healthcare provider right away if you develop symptoms suggestive of COVID-19 (such as fever, cough, and shortness of breath)
- Household members should stay in another room or be separated from the patient as much as possible
- Use a separate bedroom and bathroom, if possible
- Limit visitors who do not need to be in the home
- Make sure that shared spaces in the home have good airflow and ventilation
Provide help and support
- Help the patient follow their healthcare provider’s instructions
- Help the patient with basic needs in the home, such as getting groceries, prescriptions, and other personal needs
- Help care for any pets in the home
- Monitor the patient’s symptoms
- If the patient is getting sicker, help them seek medical attention
Keep facemasks and disposable gloves
- The patient should wear a facemask when they are around other people
- If the patient is not able to wear a facemask, you should wear a mask when you are in the same room as them
- Wear a disposable facemask and gloves when you touch or have contact with the patient’s body fluids, such as saliva, mucus, blood, stool, vomit, or urine
- Wear disposable gloves while handling soiled items and keep soiled items away from your body
- Throw out disposable face masks and gloves after using and do not reuse them
- Wash hands or use alcohol-based hand sanitizer after removing gloves, and again after removing face masks
Discuss any additional questions with your healthcare provider or a local / state health department official.
What is the difference between self-isolation and self-quarantine?
Self-isolation and self-quarantine are both ways to limit interaction with others and prevent the spread of disease.
- Self-isolation = Separating sick people from people who are not sick. Individuals are separated for a period of time until they are no longer infectious
- Self-quarantine = Separating individuals who may have been exposed to a contagious disease but haven’t been tested. They are separated for a period of time to see if they get sick
When should I seek medical care?
If you think you have been exposed, it is important to closely monitor for symptoms. Most mild cases of COVID-19 resolve within 2 weeks without treatment. Seek medical attention immediately if you develop severe symptoms, especially if you experience:
- Severe trouble breathing (such as being unable to talk without gasping for air)
- Continuous pain or pressure in your chest
- Feeling confused or having difficulty waking up
- Blue-colored lips or face
- Any other emergency signs or symptoms
If you seek medical attention, be sure to call ahead before visiting the facility. This will help the facility keep other people from possibly getting infected or exposed.
- Tell any healthcare provider that you may have COVID-19.
- Avoid using public transportation, ride-sharing, or taxis.
- Put on a facemask before you enter any healthcare facility.
How is COVID-19 treated?
Treatment currently focuses on managing symptoms and protecting your family and community through self-quarantine. Not all patients with COVID-19 will require medical attention, and most people recover within 2 weeks without any specific treatment. For severe cases, hospitalization may be required.
Your healthcare provider can help you determine whether monitoring your condition from home or a hospital is most appropriate for you. This decision will be made on a case-by-case basis and will likely be based on several factors including your medical history and current symptoms.
If you and your healthcare provider determine that you will monitor your condition from home, ask if they recommend over-the-counter medications, and be sure to rest, hydrate, and eat a balanced diet as best you can.
At this time, there is no vaccine or antiviral drugs approved by the FDA to prevent or treat patients with COVID-19.
What’s the point of being diagnosed if there is no medical treatment?
Knowing whether you have COVID-19 can help you prevent the spread of the virus by taking important measures like self-quarantine. As many public health organizations have pointed out, COVID-19 shares many symptoms with the flu, the common cold, even allergies, so it's important to know.
Who should get tested?
You should get tested if you have symptoms of COVID-19, are a healthcare worker, or you live or work in a place where people reside, meet, or gather in close proximity. This can include homeless shelters, assisted living facilities, group homes, prisons, detention centers, schools, and workplaces.
You will be asked to complete a screening questionnaire, based on guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), before purchasing in order to prioritize COVID-19 test kits for people with the highest need. The criteria prioritizes people who are:
- Currently experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 such as fever, cough, or shortness of breath
- Think you may have been exposed to COVID-19
If you’re experiencing severe symptoms, such as difficulty breathing, seek medical attention right away. The CDC recommends calling your healthcare provider or facility to let them know that you may have COVID-19 which will help them to take steps to keep others from being exposed.
At this time we are only able to offer testing for those 18 years and older. Please see our FAQ here.
How long after symptoms go away will I still show positive for the virus?
We recommend testing if you currently have symptoms or think you may have been exposed to COVID-19 within the last 14 days. There are antibody tests that can provide information on whether you've developed an antibody response to the viral antigen. We do not offer that kind of test but we'll be happy to pass the suggestion on to the rest of the team.