What are the symptoms of COVID-19?
Some people infected with the virus have no symptoms. When the virus does cause symptoms, common ones include low-grade fever, body aches, coughing, nasal congestion, runny nose, and sore throat. However, COVID-19 can occasionally cause more severe symptoms like high fever, severe cough, and shortness of breath, which often indicates pneumonia.
How long is it between when a person is exposed to the virus and when they start showing symptoms?
Because this coronavirus has just been discovered, the time from exposure to symptom onset (known as the incubation period) for most people has yet to be determined. Based on current information, symptoms could appear as soon as three days after exposure to as long as 13 days later. Recently published research found that on average, the incubation period is about five days.
How does coronavirus spread?
The coronavirus is thought to spread mainly from person to person. This can happen between people who are in close contact with one another. Droplets that are produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes may land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby, or possibly be inhaled into their lungs.
Coronavirus can also spread from contact with infected surfaces or objects. For example, 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.
How deadly is COVID-19?
The answer depends on whether you’re looking at the fatality rate (the risk of death among those who are infected) or the total number of deaths. So far, influenza has caused far more deaths this flu season, both in the US and worldwide, than COVID-19. This is why you may have heard it said that the flu is a bigger threat.
Regarding the fatality rate, it appears that the risk of death with the pandemic coronavirus infection (commonly estimated at 3% to 4%) is less than it was for SARS (approximately 11%) and MERS (about 35%), but may be higher than the risk from seasonal flu (which averages about 0.1%).
However, the numbers circulating right now for this new coronavirus are likely to be adjusted over time, as more people are tested and reporting becomes more consistent. For example, testing has been limited at the start of the outbreak, which could result in fewer identified cases, making it seem as though a larger percentage of infections are fatal. In fact, some recent estimates put the mortality rate of the new coronavirus closer to 1%.
Who is at highest risk for getting very sick from COVID-19?
Older people, and those with underlying medical problems like chronic bronchitis, emphysema, heart failure, or diabetes, are more likely to develop serious illness.
Are kids immune to the virus that causes COVID-19?
Children, including very young children, can develop COVID-19. However, children tend to experience milder symptoms such as fever, runny nose, and cough. Some children have had severe complications, but this has been less common. Children with underlying health conditions may be at increased risk for severe illness.
Will warm weather stop the outbreak of COVID-19?
Some viruses, like the common cold and flu, spread more when the weather is colder. But it is still possible to become sick with these viruses during warmer months. At this time, we do not know whether the spread of COVID-19 will decrease when the weather warms up.
Should I accept packages from China?
There is no reason to suspect that packages from China harbor coronavirus. Remember, this is a respiratory virus similar to the flu. We don’t stop receiving packages from China during their flu season. We should follow that same logic for the virus that causes COVID-19.
Can I catch the coronavirus by eating food handled or prepared by others?
We are still learning about transmission of the new coronavirus. It’s not clear if it can be spread by an infected person through food they have handled or prepared, but if so it would more likely be the exception than the rule.
That said, the new coronavirus is a respiratory virus known to spread by upper respiratory secretions, including airborne droplets after coughing or sneezing. The virus that causes COVID-19 has also been detected in the stool of certain people. So we currently cannot rule out the possibility of the infection being transmitted through food by an infected person who has not thoroughly washed their hands. In the case of hot food, the virus would likely be killed by cooking. This may not be the case with uncooked foods like salads or sandwiches.
What can I do to protect myself and others from COVID-19?
The following actions help prevent the spread of COVID-19, as well as other coronaviruses and influenza:
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
- Stay home when you are sick.
- Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water.