Coronavirus FAQ - Patient Education
What is COVID-19?
Coronavirus disease 2019, or “COVID-19,” is an infection caused by a specific virus called SARS-CoV-2. It first appeared in late 2019 in the city of Wuhan, China. People with COVID-19 can have fever, cough, and trouble breathing. Problems with breathing happen when the infection affects the lungs and causes pneumonia. Experts are studying this virus and will continue to learn more about it over time.
How is COVID-19 spread?
COVID-19 mainly spreads from person to person, similar to the flu. This usually happens when a sick person coughs or sneezes near other people. Doctors also think it might be possible to get sick if you touch a surface that has the virus on it and then touch your mouth, nose, or eyes.
COVID-19 began in China. But it has spread quickly, and there are cases in many other countries, too, including the United States. Most of these happened when people got the infection and then traveled to another country. But in some cases, the virus then spreads to other people. Because of this, there are now smaller outbreaks in several different countries.
What are the symptoms of COVID-19?
Symptoms usually start a few days after a person is infected with the virus. But in some people it can take even longer for symptoms to appear.
Symptoms can include:
• Feeling tired
• Trouble breathing
• Muscle aches
Most people have mild symptoms. Some people have no symptoms at all. But in other people, COVID-19 can lead to serious problems like pneumonia, not getting enough oxygen, or even death. This is more common in people who are older or have other health problems.
While children can get COVID-19, they seem less likely to have severe symptoms.
Should I see a doctor or nurse?
If you have a fever, cough, or trouble breathing and might have been exposed to COVID-19, call your doctor or nurse. You might have been exposed if any of the following happened within the last 14 days:
• You had close contact with a person who has the virus – This generally means being within about 6 feet of the person.
• You lived in, or traveled to, an area where lots of people have the virus – The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has information about which areas are affected. This can be found on the CDC website.
• You went to an event or location where there were known cases of COVID-19 – For example, if multiple people got sick after a specific gathering or in your workplace, you might have been exposed.
If your symptoms are not severe, it is best to call your doctor, nurse, or clinic before you go in. They can tell you what to do and whether you need to be seen in person. If you do need to go to the clinic or hospital, you will need to put on a face mask. The staff might also have you wait some place away from other people.
If you are severely ill and need to go to the clinic or hospital right away, you should still call ahead. This way the staff can care for you while taking steps to protect others.
Your doctor or nurse will do an exam and ask about your symptoms. They will also ask questions about any recent travel and whether you have been around anyone who might be sick.