What is coronavirus? Symptoms, prevention and who is most at risk

Here are some things to know about coronavirus, or COVID-19, according to the CDC and WHO.

Symptoms, prevention, who is most at risk and more information on COVID-19

Here are some things to know about the coronavirus as medical professionals, governments and people around the world work to slow its spread:

What is coronavirus?

According to the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Coronavirus disease, also called COVID-19, 2019-nCov or 2019 Novel Coronavirus, is "a respiratory illness that can spread from person to person. The virus that causes COVID-19 is a novel coronavirus that was first identified during an investigation into an outbreak in Wuhan, China."

How is coronavirus spread?

Coronavirus is spread from person to person. People with the illness spread the disease through tiny droplets of water when they cough or exhale. Those droplets land on objects and surfaces around them. The disease spreads when another person inhales those droplets from a person with the disease who coughs or exhales, or when someone without the illness touches objects or surfaces with the droplets, then touches their face -- particularly their eyes, nose or mouth, with unwashed hands.

Research on the ways the illness is spread is ongoing, according to WHO.


What are the symptoms of coronavirus?

According to the World Health Organization, symptoms typically include fever, tiredness and dry cough.

Symptoms vary from person to person, and may develop 2-14 days after exposure to the virus, the CDC said. Still, others who test positive may not symptoms and instead be asymptomatic.

"Some people become infected but don't develop any symptoms and don't feel unwell. Most people (about 80%) recover from the disease without needing special treatment," according to the WHO website.

According to the CDC, some, but not all symptoms, include the following:

  • 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

Is there a vaccine for coronavirus?

No, there is not currently a vaccine for coronavirus.

Who is the most at risk to get coronavirus?

According to the CDC, older adults and those with medical conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, lung disease, asthma and COPD are at a higher risk of getting very sick from coronavirus.

Those in areas and communities with systemic health and social inequities, including racial and ethnic minority groups, rural communities, people experiencing homelessness, people with disabilities are at increased risk of getting sick from coronavirus as well.

How can I prevent getting coronavirus?

The biggest prevention method for most illnesses is washing your hands. The CDC recommends washing your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, or about as long as the "Alphabet" song. If soap and water are not available, you should use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.

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How can I prevent spreading coronavirus to others?

If you are sick -- whether with coronavirus or not, you should stay home. When you sneeze or cough, cover your mouth with a tissue and throw it in the trash. If you don’t have a tissue, the CDC says to cough or sneeze into your elbow. Frequently touched objects and surfaces should be cleaned and disinfected frequently, according to the CDC.

People should also wear a mask when in spaces where social distancing -- staying 6-feet apart -- is not possible. The masks should cover the mouth and nose.

Proper handwashing should be practiced at all times.

How long does coronavirus live on a surface?

According to WHO, “studies have shown that the COVID-19 virus can survive for up to 72 hours on plastic and stainless steel, less than 4 hours on copper and less than 24 hours on cardboard.”

The Environmental Protection Agency has a list of disinfectants for use against SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

Can you transmit or get coronavirus from your pet?

Although risk is low, several dogs and cats that have been in contact with infected humans have tested positive for the coronavirus, according to the WHO site.

There is no evidence that animals can transmit the disease to humans and spread COVID-19. However, there have been multiple cases of domestic pets testing positive for COVID-19, including a family dog in New York that died of the illness.

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