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 MERSSARS 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
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headache
  • New loss of taste or smell
  • Sore throat
  • Congestion or runny nose
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea

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.

What should I do if I'm experiencing symptoms? 

If you’re feeling sick, call first before seeking medical care.

In the Morgantown area, contact your physician or call WVU Medicine’s line at 304-598-6000 (Option 4).

Elsewhere, contact your physician, your local county health department or the WV DHHR hotline at 304-341-1579.

For information about testing

For WVU students and faculty, call the DHHR hotline at 1-800-887-4304 or 304-341-1579 if from WVU and using out of state cell phone number. Also, visit the CDC for the latest testing information, as well as an online coronavirus self-checker

Students on the Morgantown campus with health questions or concerns should contact WVU Medicine Student Health at 304-285-7200. Student Health/UC Evansdale will be closed all Saturdays now through Aug. 8. Students on partner campuses should contact the Student Health Clinic, the local health department or for WVU students and faculty, call the DHHR hotline at 1-800-887-4304 or 304-341-1579 if from WVU and using out of state cell phone number.

When should I get tested? 

WVU Medicine Health Report: COVID-19 - When best to test

What will I be asked when I call?

  • Do you have a fever of 100.4 degrees or higher?
  • Do you have symptoms including cough and shortness of breath?
  • Have you been around someone with COVID-19 or to an area of concern?
  • You may be asked if you can self-quarantine.

How serious is COVID-19?

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 do I need to know about COVID-19 variants?

Viruses constantly change through mutation, and new variants of a virus are expected to occur over time.

The United Kingdom (UK) identified a variant called B.1.1.7 with a large number of mutations in the fall of 2020. This variant spreads more easily and quickly than other variants. In January 2021, experts in the UK reported that this variant may be associated with an increased risk of death compared to other variant viruses, but more studies are needed to confirm this finding. It has since been detected in many countries around the world. This variant was first detected in the US at the end of December 2020.

The West Virginia DHHR reported Feb. 19 that this variant was detected in West Virginia

What guidance does WVU have for students, faculty, staff, etc.? 

As the University community makes the Return to Campus, a number of measures have been outlined for Public Health and Safety.

What’s the risk in West Virginia, in the U.S. and abroad?

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 or 304-341-1579 if from WVU and using out of state cell phone number. Visit the Center for Disease Control and Prevention for more information about cases in the U.S. 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 and to get a vaccine. For those who are not vaccinated, 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 with people who are sick. 
    • A close contact is defined as someone who was within 6 feet of an infected person for a cumulative total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period. 
    • 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? 

  • Get vaccinated.
  • 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 still wear a mask? 

The CDC's updated guidelines say individuals who are fully vaccinated can resume activities without wearing a mask or physically distancing, except where required by federal, state, local, tribal, or territorial laws, rules, and regulations, including local business and workplace guidance. 

The CDC recommends unvaccinated individuals continue wearing masks. 

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. Resources for medical providers are also posted on the WV DHHR's Bureau for Medical Services website

What if I’ve been exposed to someone with COVID-19?

The West Virginia DHHR released a guide May 6 with more information. The CDC also has testing information, as well as an online coronavirus self-checker

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). 

Close contacts should also follow the CDC recommendations and DHHR recommendations

What if I’m planning to travel?

The CDC is offering a number of guidelines for travel. Travel guidance is also available for the WVU community on the Return to Campus site

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

WVU students can access support services through the WVU Carruth Center, and Health Sciences students can access services through Carruth's satellite office, BeWell

Key terms and glossary

COVID-19 has introduced the world to a whole new vocabulary of public health terms. We've compiled a list of some of the terms you may be hearing and reading.