What is Coronavirus (COVID-19)?
Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that are common in many different species of animals, including camels, cattle, cats and bats. Rarely, animal coronaviruses can infect people and then spread between people such as with MERS, SARS and now with this new virus, SARS-CoV-2, which causes the 2019 novel coronavirus disease, abbreviated COVID-19.
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:
- Fever or chills
- Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
- Muscle or body aches
- New loss of taste or smell
- Sore throat
- Congestion or runny nose
- Nausea or vomiting
This list does not include all possible symptoms. CDC will continue to update this list as more is learned about COVID-19.
What are the emergency warning signs?
If someone is showing any of these signs, seek emergency medical care immediately:
- Trouble breathing
- Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
- New confusion
- Inability to wake or stay awake
- Bluish lips or face
This list is not all possible symptoms. Please call your medical provider for any other symptoms that are severe or concerning to you.
How serious is it?
The complete clinical picture is not fully understood. For confirmed cases, reported illnesses have ranged from mild symptoms to severe illness and death. There are ongoing investigations to learn more.
Anyone can have mild to severe symptoms. Older adults and people who have severe underlying medical conditions like heart or lung disease or diabetes seem to be at higher risk of developing serious COVID-19 illness. The effects of COVID-19 on the health of racial and ethnic minority groups is still emerging; however, the current data suggest a disproportionate burden of illness and death among racial and ethnic minority groups.
How does it spread?
The virus spreads easily between people
How easily a virus spreads from person-to-person can vary. Some viruses are highly contagious, like measles, while other viruses do not spread as easily. Another factor is whether the spread is sustained, which means it goes from person-to-person without stopping.
The virus that causes COVID-19 is spreading very easily and sustainably between people. Information from the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic suggest that this virus is spreading more efficiently than influenza, but not as efficiently as measles, which is highly contagious.
The virus does not spread easily in other ways
COVID-19 is a new disease and we are still learning about how it spreads. It may be possible for COVID-19 to spread in other ways, but these are not thought to be the main ways the virus spreads.
- From touching surfaces or objects. It may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes. This is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads, but we are still learning more about this virus.
- From animals to people. At this time, the risk of COVID-19 spreading from animals to people is considered to be low. Learn about COVID-19 and pets and other animals.
- From people to animals. It appears that the virus that causes COVID-19 can spread from people to animals in some situations. CDC is aware of a small number of pets worldwide, including cats and dogs, reported to be infected with the virus that causes COVID-19, mostly after close contact with people with COVID-19. Learn what you should do if you have pets.
What makes it different than influenza?
It's difficult to distinguish the difference because the symptoms of COVID-19 are similar to those of influenza - fever, cough, shortness of breath, body aches, fatigue and, occasionally vomiting and diarrhea. Both can cause pneumonia as well.
One of the biggest known differences is the incubation period of COVID-19 - the time from exposure to the development of symptoms and illness. COVID-19's incubation period ranges from 2 - 14 days, which is nearly three times longer than influenza. Also, COVID-19 seems to be more contagious.
One of the biggest concerns with COVID-19 is that people who are infected may show no symptoms for up to 14 days but still be able to transmit the virus to others. This makes it difficult to identify persons who need to be tested.
Unlike influenza, COVID-19 does not yet have a medication or a vaccine that people can take to treat or protect themselves. There are a number of efforts to create a medication, but none have been approved yet. A potential vaccine will not be ready for several months.
What’s the risk in West Virginia?
In light of West Virginia's success at keeping the cumulative rate of positive COVID-19 tests under 3 percent, Gov. Justice lifted the “Stay At Home” order imposed statewide last month, replacing it on May 4 with a “Safer At Home” order.
For the latest information in West Virginia, visit the DHHR’s COVID-19 response page or call the state's COVID-19 hotline at 1-800-887-4304.
What’s the risk in the U.S.?
Visit the Center for Disease Control and Prevention for more information about cases in the U.S.
What about other countries?
Visit the World Health Organization's Coronavirus Dashboard to learn more about the current global situation.
What can I do to protect myself?
The best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to this virus. There is currently no vaccine to prevent COVID-19, but the CDC offers a number of guidelines to protect yourself and others:
- Clean your hands often.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds especially after you have been in a public place, or after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
- If soap and water are not readily available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. Cover all surfaces of your hands and rub them together until they feel dry.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
- Avoid close contact
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick
- Stay home as much as possible.
- Put distance between yourself and other people.
- Remember that some people without symptoms may be able to spread virus.
- Keeping distance from others is especially important for people who are at higher risk of getting very sick.
How can I protect others?
- Stay home when you are sick.
- Cover your cough or sneeze.
- Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze or use the inside of your elbow.
- Throw used tissues in the trash.
- Immediately wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not readily available, clean your hands with a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing. If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
- Clean and disinfect.
- Clean AND disinfect frequently touched surfaces daily. This includes tables, doorknobs, light switches, countertops, handles, desks, phones, keyboards, toilets, faucets, and sinks.
- If surfaces are dirty, clean them: Use detergent or soap and water prior to disinfection.
Should I wear a mask?
As COVID-19 is primarily spread through respiratory droplets, WVU will require in the Fall that all faculty, staff, students and visitors wear masks while on campus. WVU Health Sciences currently requires that all patients, students, faculty and staff wear masks or face coverings on the Health Sciences campus at all times.
For the general public, WVU health officials recommend wearing face coverings such as bandanas, scarves or homemade masks while in public spaces. These face coverings may help contain the spread of COVID-19 by reducing droplet spread and reducing face touching. This measure is in addition to maintaining social distancing, frequent hand washing, and other preventive actions listed above.
On July 6, West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice issued an executive order establishing a statewide indoor face covering requirement. The order requires all West Virginians age 9 and older to wear a face covering at all indoor public places where six feet of social distancing cannot be maintained.
What if I’m a healthcare provider?
CDC has developed guidance to help in the risk assessment and management of people with potential exposures to COVID-19. More information is also available under the Healthcare Providers tab.
What if I’ve been exposed to someone with COVID-19?
If you develop COVID-19 symptoms, contact your healthcare provider, and tell them about your symptoms and your travel or exposure to a COVID-19 patient.
- Stay home except to get medical care. You should restrict activities outside your home, except for getting medical care. Do not go to work, school, or public areas. Avoid using public transportation, ride-sharing, or taxis.
- Separate yourself from other people and animals in your home.
People: As much as possible, you should stay in a specific room and away from other people in your home. Also, you should use a separate bathroom, if available.
Animals: You should restrict contact with pets and other animals while you are sick with COVID-19, just like you would around other people. Although there have not been reports of pets or other animals becoming sick with COVID-19, it is still recommended that people sick with COVID-19 limit contact with animals until more information is known about the virus.
- Call ahead before visiting your doctor. If you have a medical appointment, call the healthcare provider and tell them that you have or may have COVID-19. This will help the healthcare provider’s office take steps to keep other people from getting infected or exposed.
- Wear a facemask. You should wear a facemask when you are around other people (e.g., sharing a room or vehicle) or pets and before you enter a healthcare provider’s office. If you are not able to wear a facemask (for example, because it causes trouble breathing), then people who live with you should not stay in the same room with you, or they should wear a facemask if they enter your room.
- Cover your coughs and sneezes. Throw used tissues in a lined trash can; immediately wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains 60 to 95% alcohol, covering all surfaces of your hands and rubbing them together until they feel dry.
- Clean your hands often. Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains 60 to 95% alcohol, covering all surfaces of your hands and rubbing them together until they feel dry. Soap and water should be used preferentially if hands are visibly dirty. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
- Avoid sharing personal household items. You should not share dishes, drinking glasses, cups, eating utensils, towels, or bedding with other people or pets in your home. After using these items, they should be washed thoroughly with soap and water.
- Clean all “high-touch” surfaces everyday. High touch surfaces include counters, tabletops, doorknobs, bathroom fixtures, toilets, phones, keyboards, tablets, and bedside tables. Also, clean any surfaces that may have blood, stool, or body fluids on them.
- Monitor your symptoms. Seek prompt medical attention if your illness is worsening. Before seeking care, call your healthcare provider and tell them that you have, or are being evaluated for, COVID-19. If you have a medical emergency and need to call 911, notify the dispatch personnel that you have, or are being evaluated for COVID-19.
- Discontinuing home isolation. Patients with confirmed COVID-19 should remain under home isolation precautions until the risk of secondary transmission to others is thought to be low. The decision to discontinue home isolation precautions should be made on a case-by-case basis, in consultation with healthcare providers and state and local health departments.
What if someone in my household has COVID-19 symptoms?
Household members, intimate partners, and caregivers in a non-healthcare setting may have close contact with a person with symptomatic, laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 or a person under investigation. Close contacts should monitor their health; they should call their healthcare provider right away if they develop symptoms suggestive of COVID-19 (e.g., fever, cough, shortness of breath).
What if I’m planning to travel outside the U.S.?
The CDC is offering a number of guidelines for travel.
How can I help fight stigma around COVID-19?
Fear and anxiety about a disease can lead to social stigma toward people, places or things. For example, stigma and discrimination can occur when people associate a disease, such as COVID-19, with a population or nationality, even though not everyone in that population or from that region is specifically at risk for the disease.
Viruses cannot target people from specific populations, ethnicities or racial backgrounds. People of Asian descent, including Chinese Americans, are not more likely to get COVID-19 than any other American. Help stop fear by letting people know that being of Asian descent does not increase the chance of getting or spreading COVID-19.
Stigma hurts everyone by creating more fear or anger towards people instead of the disease that is causing the problem. We can fight stigma and help not hurt others by providing social support.
I'm stressed about the outbreak. What can I do?
- Avoid excessive exposure to media coverage of COVID-19.
- Take care of your body. Take deep breaths, stretch or meditate. Try to eat healthy, well-balanced meals, exercise regularly, get plenty of sleep and avoid alcohol and drugs.
- Make time to unwind and remind yourself that strong feelings will fade. Take breaks from watching, reading, or listening to news stories. It can be upsetting to hear about the crisis and see images repeatedly. Try to do some other activities you enjoy to return to your normal life.
- Connect with others. Share your concerns and how you are feeling with a friend or family member. Maintain healthy relationships.
- Maintain a sense of hope and positive thinking.
The CDC is also offering tips specifically for people with pre-existing mental health conditions, parents and responders.