Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses found in both animals and humans.
- Some infect people and are known to cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).
- A novel coronavirus is a new strain of coronavirus that has not been previously identified in humans. The now-named COVID-19 (FKA nCoV) had not been previously detected before the outbreak was reported in Wuhan, China, in December 2019.
- See World Health Organization (WHO) Q&A on coronaviruses for more information
People with COVID-19 infection, the flu, or a cold typically develop respiratory symptoms such as fever, cough, and runny nose.
- Even though many symptoms are similar, they are caused by different viruses.
- The WHO recommends that people who have a cough, fever, or difficulty breathing should seek medical care early. Patients should inform health care providers if they have travelled in the 14 days before they developed symptoms, or if they have been in close contact with someone who has been sick with respiratory symptoms.
- According to the WHO, COVID-19 can be more severe for some persons and can lead to pneumonia or breathing difficulties. Older people and people who are immune compromised or have pre-existing medical conditions (such as diabetes and heart disease), appear to be more vulnerable to becoming severely ill with the virus.
There is much to learn about the transmissibility, severity, and other features associated with COVID-19. You can refer to the websites for the WHO and CDC for additional information on prevention and treatment, but it is believed to be spread mainly via respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes, similar to how influenza and other respiratory pathogens spread. The CDC always recommends everyday preventative actions to help prevent the spread of respiratory viruses, including:
- 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. Always wash hands with soap and water if hands are visibly dirty.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- Stay home when you are sick.
- Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, and then throw the tissue in the trash.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
Seek medical advice—Call ahead before you go to a doctor’s office or emergency room. Tell them about recent travels and symptoms. Avoid contact with others. The CDC has issued interim guidance for people who have the virus or had close contact with a person confirmed to have, or being evaluated for COVID-19. This includes guidance on self-quarantine, such as:
- Stay home except to get medical care
- Separate yourself from other people in your home
- Call ahead before visiting your doctor
- Wear a facemask
- Cover your coughs and sneezes
- Clean your hands
- Avoid sharing personal household items
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The CDC does not recommend the use of facemasks for the general public to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
- Masks are generally recommended only for those who are experiencing symptoms to help limit their ability to spread infection through respiratory droplets.
- The WHO has developed guidance on the use of medical masks in communities, at home, and at health care facilities that have reported outbreaks caused by COVID-19. For the larger community the WHO has stated, “Wearing medical masks when not indicated may cause unnecessary cost, procurement burden and create a false sense of security that can lead to neglecting other essential measures such as hand hygiene practices. Furthermore, using a mask incorrectly may hamper its effectiveness to reduce the risk of transmission.”